By: Maria Moore
Resignation Letter received by Town
Karl Nilsen, the town’s Land Use Coordinator (which includes the functions of Zoning Officer and Inland Wetlands Officer) submitted a letter of resignation to the town of New Hartford on April 22, notifying the town of his retirement effective April 22. Â The letter, addressed to First Selectman Dan Jerram, was hand-delivered to the First Selectman’s Office on the same day that Karl officially resigned from his part-time position as Zoning Officer in the town of Burlington; see copy of Karl’s resignation letter at the end of this report.
The news of Karl’s resignation letter to the town was first reported by Kari Banach in today’s print and online issue of the Republican American and was later picked up by the Register Citizen on its website. Â The news of Karl’s resignation from his part-time position in Burlington was first reported by David Hutter of the Register Citizen on April 24; David’s report made no mention of Karl’s resignation from his New Hartford full-time position. Â Karl’s resignation from both positions came exactly one week after the Register Citizen published, on April 15, 20 pages of documents related to the investigation which the newspaper obtained from the First Selectman following an FOI (Freedom of Information) request seeking all documentation related to Karl’s suspension; see also our April 15 report announcing that NewHartfordPlus would not be publishing those documents, believing their release to be premature due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Karl’s Resignation Not Acted Upon By Town
Our reporter’s uppermost question of the First Selectman’s Office this morning was to ask why her almost daily question of “Are there any developments?” or “Are there any changes?” to the ongoing investigation did not elicit the letter. The response from the First Selectman was: “It depends on how you ask the question. Your question has to be specific.” “So my asking if there were any developments in the zoning office situation wasn’t enough?” “No, because there haven’t been any developments as far as the town is concerned.” First Selectman Dan Jerram said, adding that Karl’s status with the town is unchanged: he is still an employee. Dan added that if the town terminates Karl for cause, then he won’t be eligible for a pension or benefits. Dan provided our reporter with two photocopies supporting this:
- the first, Section 7 from the municipal employees’ union contract which says that unused personal and compensatory time, and one-third of the portion of sick leave accumulated will be forfeited if the employee is terminated for cause;
- and the second, Section 12.2 from the town Pension Fund, which says that if an employee is involuntarily terminated due to fraud or dishonesty, at the discretion of the Retirement Board, he will forfeit payments and benefits under the fund.
Our reporter asked whether the retirement package had been forwarded to Karl and Christine Hayward, the First Selectman’s Assistant said that there is no retirement package, that normally the employee informs the First Selectman of their intention to retire and the First Selectman then asks the pension fund company to calculate the employee’s benefits. Our reporter asked if the town had done that for Karl and the response was that the town had not done so.
Our reporter then asked whether the employees’ union had been informed of Karl’s letter and Dan said he had communicated with the union after the weekend; Dan did not release a copy of his communication to the union. Our reporter then spoke with Nancy Eldridge, the employees’ union president, specifically when she had received a communication from the First Selectman’s Office and Nancy said: “On Tuesday afternoon.” ~ three days after Karl’s letter had been received, and on the same day that the Board of Selectmen’s meeting had been cancelled, and the Annual Budget meeting where, without discussion, the budget was sent to referendum for a “Yes” or “No” vote.
Conversation With Attorney Rosenblatt, Karl’s Attorney
This afternoon our reporter spoke with Attorney Leon Rosenblatt, an attorney specializing in employment and labor law, regarding Karl’s status. Attorney Rosenblatt emphasized two points:
- As he had told Kari Banach for her interview, an employer cannot decline an employee’s resignation. Â “We don’t have slaves or indentured servants in the US!”
- The town will find that the provision in the Pension Fund regarding forfeiture of an employee’s pension is not legal. Â Attorney Rosenblatt said that Karl has been employed by the town for 25 years and that: “Forfeiture of an employee’s pension rights isn’t in the cards.”
This report will be updated as more information becomes available.