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Custodial Union Says Leominster Could Face Lawsuit from Private Company

December 11, 2017 GMT

LEOMINSTER -- The president of the School Department’s custodial union has alleged the private company Emerald Green Building Services has threatened the city with a lawsuit if its services are terminated.

The company was hired by the School Department to fill the void left this past summer when budget cuts necessitated the layoff of 27 Leominster custodians, roughly 80 percent of the total staff.

Subsequent negotiations with the union and criticisms of Emerald Green’s performance led to 19 of the laid off custodians being rehired, but Union President Scott Lanciani said Friday that district Human Resources Director Sergio Paez told him that the company could sue the city if the school department tries to replace them entirely.

“The human resources director told me that within about the third or fourth day of us coming back,” Lanciani said.

Paez offered no comment about the issue when contacted Friday.

The only item listed on the agenda for the Dec. 11 School Committee meeting is a discussion of “potential litigation” to be held away from the public in executive session. However, the agenda for a meeting of the committee’s Finance Subcommittee later that same night lists an “update on potential legal action by a vendor and current status of services being provided.”

Finance Subcommittee Chair Kristin Howlett could not be reached for comment Friday. Finance Subcommittee member Nona Ojala was contacted but said she was not sure what specific issue the “potential legal action” listed in the agenda was referring to.

When asked Friday if his company was considering a lawsuit, Emerald Green President Paul McAleer only said, “I’m not going to comment on anything. We’re working with the city and still providing labor.”

Mayor Dean Mazzarella said Friday that no lawsuit had been filed.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten any paperwork on that,” he said, adding that he didn’t think Emerald Green would be able to sue the city. “We don’t even have a contract with them, they work month to month.”

Since the rehired custodians returned to Leominster schools, Lanciani said he had also spoken with Emerald Green Director of Operations Gary Perrin, who he said indicated that the company had a contract until June.

“Halfway through the conversation he said he was in full disagreement in how we returned and basically the school department said they had to eliminate half their staff,” Lanciani said. “But from what I understand, they only have a signed proposal to do monthly services.”

According to Lanciani, the re-hired staff work in the schools at night while remaining Emerald Green employees continue to work at the schools during the day. However, there are still six jobs currently open, which he said had been advertised but not filled due to the possibility of a lawsuit.

“We were in shock when we came back and this company was still around. Our impression was that we’d come back and then they’d be phased out,” Lanciani said. “Now they’re still here and no one seems to know what’s going on.”

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53.