Fired worker: Dismissal politically driven
An attorney for a fired Mahoning County maintenance employee, who is undergoing cancer treatment, said the sole reason for his dismissal is he supported the Republican opponent of county Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.
Ricky Morrison of Poland must be reinstated to his job, of which he was fired Dec. 2, by Friday or Subodh Chandra, his attorney, said: “We’ll take all appropriate action and that includes litigation.”
In a five-page letter to the county commissioners, Chandra said Morrison was unlawfully terminated because of his support of Republican Geno DiFabio, who challenged Rimedio-Righetti for commissioner.
“He is a cancer patient and you have inflicted irreparable harm on him by stripping him of the health care he needs now,” Chandra wrote.
Rimedio-Righetti is winning the race by 137 votes, 0.16 of a percent, with the final results — which are expected to affirm her as the victor — to be announced at a Tuesday board of elections meeting after a machine recount process is finished.
Morrison, who was hired Sept. 12 by the county and fired Dec. 2 during his probationary period, sat next to DiFabio at a Nov. 28 elections board meeting.
At that meeting, the board voted to certify the results giving Rimedio-Righetti the win, but also scheduling an automatic recount because the margin of victory was so close. Automatic recounts occur when the margin of victory is within 0.5 of a percent.
Morrison was there as a private citizen as his work day was done, but his “presence and association with Mr. DiFabio in the meeting apparently spoke volumes,” Chandra wrote in the letter.
Chandra wrote that Morrison congratulated Rimedio-Righetti, who told him he looked familiar. When he identified himself, Chandra wrote that Rimedio-Righetti said “in a disgusted tone, ‘Ricky Morrison. You work for us. Unreal,” and then walked away.
Morrison was fired Dec. 2 with his supervisor saying “the commissioners” had decided to terminate him, Chandra wrote.
While working for the county, Morrison “performed exceptionally well, was on time every day, was never written up or disciplined in any way” while another co-worker hired around the same time, who wasn’t fired, “was repeatedly late for work and received several reprimands for his poor performance,” Chandra wrote.
In a Saturday interview, Chandra said of Morrison: “He was fired in retaliation by admission of his supervisor.”
Rimedio-Righetti said she wouldn’t comment on Morrison, but added: “Not everything you read in a letter is completely accurate.” Rimedio-Righetti said she hasn’t read Chandra’s letter.
She said she spoke to Morrison at the Nov. 28 board meeting because he was standing in front of the only door to leave that room. Rimedio-Righetti said Morrison didn’t congratulate her and she did tell him that she recognized him.
“He said who he was and I said, ‘Oh, wow,'” Rimedio-Righetti said.
She said the commissioners didn’t fire Morrison and that he was on probation.
Commissioner David Ditzler, who read Chandra’s letter, also said the commissioners didn’t vote on firing Morrison and that he was on probation. The decision rests with the county administrator and the facilities manager, Ditzler said, adding that those two “are the most apolitical people in the world.”
Ditzler said: “It’s an employment issue. I can’t talk about it at all.”
When asked if it was in retaliation, Ditzler said, “No, it wasn’t retaliation, absolutely not.”
In Chandra’s letter, he said a county commissioner”admitted as much” that it was “casually connected to (Morrison’s) First Amendment-protected activity.”
With Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler denying that, that would only leave Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, who didn’t respond to requests Saturday to comment.
DiFabio said Saturday that Chandra’s letter was “accurate. I’m very disturbed they think they can get away with treating good people like that. When you have one-party rule with no dissenting voice, you get this. It’s tyranny because they think no one will say anything. It’s wrong and it’s evil. He doesn’t have a job at Christmas and he needs chemo and they do this to him.”
Morrison referred comment to Chandra and his other attorney, Martin Desmond.
Chandra was Desmond’s attorney when the latter settled a lawsuit for $550,000 with the county in April related to his 2017 termination as an assistant county prosecutor.