MEDFORD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — One month after filing a complaint against the City of Medford for what she called unhealthy working conditions at Medford City Hall, a city employee has been placed on paid administrative leave, an act she and her union claim is retaliation for speaking up.
Elections Coordinator Sandra Burbine-Gale and Teamsters Local 25 filed the formal complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards on Aug. 15, alleging that black mold, asbestos, exposed electrical wires, standing water, and pests in the city hall's basement were putting employees' health at risk.
On Monday, Sept. 12, Burbine-Gale and Local 25 received a notice from the City that she would be placed on administrative leave, and that she must return all City-owned property, including her keys to City Hall and employee identification card.
"I’ve been at this job for 30 years, and the only thing I remember is that in bold letters, it said this was not a disciplinary action. Well if it’s not a disciplinary action and I do a good job, and I’ve done a good job, why are you putting me on paid administrative leave? So, I’m a little confused," Burbine-Gale told WBZ NewsRadio.
"The City of Medford has unlawfully retaliated against Ms. Burbine-Gale for exercising her rights under Massachusetts Law in reporting unsafe working conditions. The City's brazen retaliation against a whistleblower is unlawful and unacceptable," Local 25 President Thomas Mari wrote in a letter to Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn.
City Director of Communications Steve Smirti responded to the allegations of retaliation, telling WBZ, "In early 2022, the City Council voted to accept G.L. c. 51, sec. 16A which created a Board of Elections and required the creation of the position of Elections Manager. After a thorough interview process, there was broad support across the administration to hire the incoming elections manager. [...] Now in an effort to streamline efficiency and remove a redundancy that our taxpayers are footing the bill for—we are negotiating with the Teamsters to eliminate the Elections Coordinator position as the new Elections Manager is now handling those duties."
Smirti did not respond to WBZ's question as to why it was necessary for Burbine-Gale to be placed on leave while the decision to eliminate the Elections Coordinator position was being negotiated.
WBZ's James Rojas (@JamesRojasNews) reports.