Youngstown laborer suspended over job-performance issues

Published: Thu, November 14, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.


By David Skolnick


A city employee with several job-performance issues during his five months working for Youngstown will get an unpaid two-day suspension after the mayor read about the problems in The Vindicator.

Mayor Charles Sammarone said Wednesday that he probably would have fired James Clacko, a laborer and fill-in lineman in the public works’ traffic engineering signal department, if the worker’s supervisor had documented the various problems on a timely basis.

Instead, Paul Vaughn, Clacko’s immediate supervisor, wrote in an Oct. 2 letter to Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works, about many problems.

That included Clacko’s improper use of a city cellphone, misuse of a city vehicle, failure to respond to calls while after hours “on many occasions,” and his failure to not respond timely to calls during regular work hours.

“He should have been suspended a few times ago,” Sammarone said. “He may have been fired if these [eight issues] were in two or three letters instead of one. The first time should have been a verbal warning, then a written warning and the third time should have been a suspension. But management failed to handle it properly.

“But one more problem, and he’s fired.”

Vaughn gave Clacko a verbal warning Sept. 25 for not wearing his city uniform to work, and another verbal warning Oct. 2 about using his city cellphone for personal calls.

Vaughn wrote a letter to Clacko on Oct. 7 stating city cellphones are for official use only. That same day Vaughn also wrote Clacko to tell him he couldn’t use a city cellphone until his bill of about $450 was paid. It has since been paid.

Sammarone said he learned more about Clacko from Wednesday’s article in The Vindicator than he did from the employee’s supervisors.

In an Oct. 11 evaluation letter in Clacko’s personnel file, Vaughn wrote that the worker “does seem to get into a person’s face or personal space when he is being told something he does not like to hear.”

Vaughn added that Clacko has shown “a short temper and violence in the shop. He likes to push people into things he wants. In time I feel he will ... only get worse with his temper as he gets more stressed.”

Sammarone said Clacko either gets in people’s faces or personal space and has a short temper or he doesn’t. Vaughn’s letter, the mayor said, on those topics was vague.

After meeting with Sammarone on Wednesday and getting a two-day suspension, to start Monday, Clacko, hired June 10, called The Vindicator.

“I am not this animal and bad person [being portrayed] in these incidents,” he said, adding that the front-page article about him was “embarrassing” and the claims in the letters, which are in his personnel file, aren’t true.

Clacko makes $21,234.27 a year in base pay and his probationary period ends Dec. 4.

Clacko racked up about $450 in private calls and text messages on a city cellphone, which led to Sammarone requiring a re-examination of the city’s cellphone policy. That policy is being updated because of Clacko’s misuse of his city cellphone, Sammarone said.

Because city management failed to provide Clacko with a written policy about city-issued cellphones, even though he should know not to use them for non-city business, Sammarone said it wouldn’t be fair to punish him.

Letters from Vaughn in Clacko’s personnel file detail a number of times he was told to not to use his city cellphone for personal calls, and that “he keeps demanding” to have the phone upgraded to a smartphone.

After three high cellphone bills on Clacko’s city phone, Shasho said he had “a poignant discussion as to what is expected of him. His attitude is improved.”

Sammarone criticized how Shasho handled the situation and for waiting so long to address the problems with Clacko.

Sammarone questioned the management skills of Shasho and Vaughn, but chose not to suspend either of them over how they handled Clacko.

Also, Sammarone said he is confused about an Oct. 25 evaluation of Clacko by Vaughn, which the mayor received Wednesday.

The letter states Clacko “has made amazing strides in learning the job as a lineman/signal tech. Despite some issues that occurred that had no bearing on his work performance, James is becoming quite an asset to traffic engineering.”

Vaughn said the city vehicle and cellphone issues “have been resolved and will never come back up again. James has guaranteed me that he has learned from his mistakes and these mistakes will never happen again.”

“This confuses me,” Sammarone said of the differences in the letters about Clacko. “Is he a good employee or not?”

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