Vernon Town Council enacts policies to protect town employees
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Jan. 10, 2014
The Vernon Town Council considered new policies to protect employees of the town, including an anti-bullying policy as well as an electronic monitoring policy, at its meeting on Jan. 7.
The electronic monitoring policy includes the statements that the town may monitor any e-mail sent from a town computer, as well as any websites visited on town computers. The town may also record photographically the users of the town's time clocks and record passwords used to enter town buildings.
A policy on violence in the workplace was also on the agenda, but Mayor Dan Champagne said that item was pulled until the next meeting, after some further adjustments could be made.
The anti-bullying policy defines bullying as verbal abuse or offensive conduct/behavior that is threatening, humiliating or intimidating. It also states that legitimate authority to control work and performance constructive feedback and political correctness and setting reasonable goals are not considered bullying.
Some council members thought the policies, as written, were unclear as far as their definition of who exactly the policy is meant to govern. Councilman Michael Winkler asked about the reporting procedure, and which specific employees qualify as “administration.”
“Is it anyone who works on the third floor?” Winkler asked, getting an answer of “yes” from Assistant Town Administrator Dawn Maselek.
Winkler also asked whether the policies apply to Town Council members or other volunteers with the town. He was told that the policy would technically not apply to volunteers, including Town Council members, but that they would be treated similarly in such an instance.
Maselek said that the recording of passwords would also apply to employees' information on swipe cards or key fobs, and that the photos at the time clocks would help prevent someone else from using an employee's information. “If there is any sort of ambiguity as to the use of the time clock, it will take a picture of the employee, so that we can see if somebody has swiped somebody else's time card or badge,” Maselek said, adding that there is not yet officially a person assigned to do the monitoring, but that it would likely be someone in administration, including herself.
Councilman Brian Motola suggested that perhaps other policies could be developed to apply to Town Council members, or other people who do business with the town. Councilwoman Pauline Schaefer said she felt like council members mistreated Superintendent Mary Conway and members of the Board of Education at the council's last meeting.
“I really wish the council could be part of this,” she said. “I was really upset about this. We're here to work together and act responsible for our behavior when we're here, but we have not always done that.”
The policy would not consider employees of the Board of Education as town employees. “I'm wondering why not,” said Councilman Bill Campbell.
“We can only cover our [town] government employees,” Champagne said.
Winkler said that while he had no objections to the policies, he suggested that a “mild re-write” might be in order.
The two policies passed unanimously, with all council members present.