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Vienna employee still wonders why fired, then rehired

Published: Wed, January 8, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.


By Jordan Cohen



One day after township trustees voted first to terminate his employment only to restore it an hour later, Mike Penrose, longtime road superintendent and cemetery sexton, was still looking for answers.

“They couldn’t give me a reason or tell me what I did wrong,” said Penrose, 47, who appeared to have lost his job when two of the three trustees voted to terminate his employment effective in April.

After a public outcry from residents who attended the meeting and an executive session, however, Trustee Phil Pegg changed his vote. He joined Trustee Richard Dascenzo in restoring the superintendent’s employment.

Penrose is on probationary status until June, when trustees will review his performance.

He is considered an “at will” employee, meaning he can be dismissed without notice or cause, according to FindLaw, a legal resource website.

The third trustee, Heidi Brown, who supported termination, walked out of the township hall after the executive session and did not stay for the second vote. A phone message left for Brown on Tuesday was not returned.

Penrose said he believes Brown has a vendetta against him stemming from an incident at the cemetery in 2010 in which Brown was charged with vandalism after Penrose filed a complaint.

A judge later dismissed the charge.

A number of residents Monday night echoed the same allegation against Brown during the turbulent and emotional meeting.

“I haven’t changed my mind,” said Penrose, who also said he has contacted an attorney.

A review of Penrose’s personnel file by The Vindicator found no record of any disciplinary action against him in more than 18 years of township employment but there are letters of praise.

A township clerk wrote that Penrose “leads with care of his fellow employees” and recommended a pay raise for him.

Among the comments in other letters from residents:

“We want you to know how much we appreciate the work you do.”

“I was overwhelmed by his kind, courteous willingness to assist me.”

There were no letters critical of Penrose.

Pegg, whose vote saved Penrose’s job for now, declined to discuss specifics or explain why he changed his mind.

“It’s a personnel decision,” Pegg said. “He knows what he needs to do and he has an understanding of what his jobs are — to take care of the roads and the cemetery.”

Pegg would not discuss the superintendent’s job performance.

“What problems do you need me to fix?” responded Penrose. “They can’t tell me.”

Dascenzo, who voted against termination, remains supportive of the superintendent.

“I’ve never had any issues with [Penrose],” Dascenzo said. “I ask him to do something, and it’s done.”

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