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Former DPW Union Chief Sues Town Over His Termination

Dec 07, 2018 06:33AM ● By Lisa Redmond

Dracut Town Hall

WOBURN – A former Dracut Department of Public Works employee is suing the town in Superior court, claiming he was unfairly fired in retaliation due to clashes with the town administration as union president.

The attorney representing George Metros says the town’s justification for terminating George Metros is just a smoke screen.

In Middlesex Superior Court earlier this year Metros, 51, of Dracut, filed a lawsuit against the Town of Dracut, Town Administrator James Duggan and DPW Director Edward Patenaude seeking lost wages, compensation for emotional distress and triple punitive damages, according to Metros' attorney Elijiah Bresley, of the law offices of Joseph L. Sulman.

The town, through its attorney John J. Davis of Pierce, David & Perritano, has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, according to the federal court docket. Davis could not be reached for comment.

Duggan has publicly stated that Metros, a 13-year DPW truck driver, was fired on Dec. 14, 2017, due to an off-duty incident on Sept. 5, 2017. The incident involved a man driving a red truck who took some copper pipe from outside a Phineas Street home. Officers located the truck, which belonged to Metros. When questioned by police, Metros said he noticed a barrel of copper at the end of a driveway and took it because he believed it was being thrown out.

The homeowner agreed not to press charges if Metros reimbursed him $150, which Metros agreed to do.

Three months later, Metros, the president of AFSCME, Council 93, Local 1404, was approached by several DPW workers who complained that Patenaude ordered them to start their shift early, at 5 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2017 due to a predicted snowstorm. The workers were told they would receive two hours of overtime pay.

Metros believed the workers were entitled to four hours of overtime under the contract, but due to past “combative negotiations’’ with Patenaude, Metros suggested the employees inform Patenaude themselves that under the collective bargaining agreement they were entitled to four hours of overtime. Patenaude agreed and the issue was resolved.

Days later, on Dec. 14, 2017, Metros was summons to Town Hall to speak with Duggan. Riding to Town Hall with Patenaude, Metros asked if he needed union representation. Patenaude said it was Metros’ decision.

At the meeting, the copper incident was raised by Duggan. In his lawsuit, Metros says he asked if he needed a union representative and claims he was told he didn’t need to. Duggan claims Metros never asked for a union representative, according to published reports.

In a ruling by a state Department of Labor Relations arbiter, issued last month, the state dismissed Metros’ allegations of retaliation due to his union duties, The Sun reports.

In published reports, Duggan dismissed Metros’ claims that he was targeted due to his union activities calling the claims “baseless.’’ After firing Metros, Duggan issued a statement saying Metros engaged in “unacceptable conduct.’’

But Bresley questions the timing of Metros’ termination.

The incident involving the copper occurred three months before Metros’ termination, but he was fired only two days after the disagreement about overtime pay, Bresley wrote.

“The real reason for the termination was Metros’ encouraging union members to request full payment of their wages.’’ Bresley claims Patenaude complained about the union and that he could make Metros’ job “easy or hard for him depending on how Metros handled union issues.’’

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