Edgartown and Joe Alosso agree on exit terms from wastewater job

Edgartown wastewater commissioners Cliff Karako (left) and Tim Connelly signed the resignation agreement under which Joe Alosso will end his employment. — Photo by Steve Myrick

In an agreement, in negotiation up to the last minute and signed Tuesday afternoon, embattled Edgartown wastewater plant operator Joe Alosso resigned from his job, effective May 16, 2012.

Wastewater commissioners signed the agreement at a joint meeting of the town selectmen, wastewater commission, and personnel board members, under the watchful eyes of town lawyers.

The meeting, scheduled for 1 pm, did not begin until 1:15 pm to allow time for the final details to be ironed out.

The agreement gives Mr. Alosso compensation for nine remaining vacation days and 28 sick days. Mr. Alosso is currently on paid administrative leave. He will begin unpaid leave, effective Friday, February 10.

Edgartown and Mr. Alosso agree to make no detrimental statements about one another. Mr. Alosso also gave up all claims against the town. A further condition requires that the town only confirm Mr. Alosso’s dates of employment and position, when questioned in the future by Mr. Alosso’s prospective employers.

Had agreement not been reached, the wastewater commission members planned to hold a disciplinary hearing on Friday. Town officials said the details of the separation agreement, including accrued pay and benefits, would not have been different had the commission fired Mr. Alosso.

Wastewater commissioners Tim Connelly and Cliff Karako voted to accept the agreement. Commissioner Jim Carter did not vote, on the advice of town labor counsel Jack Collins.

Selectmen Art Smadbeck and Margaret Serpa were also present. Selectman Michael Donaroma was not.”For the record, the board of selectmen is in concurrence with the decision to sign this agreement,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

Mr. Alosso did not attend the meeting.There was little discussion.

Town counsel Ron Rappaport, the only person who spoke at any length during the meeting, told those present that a negotiated resolution was in the best interest of the town. “There’s no lawsuit, we can put this behind us,” he said.

Mr. Rappaport also offered a personal observation. “I’m personally saddened, and think we all are, by these events,” he said. “We’ve worked with Joe a long time. As an engineer, he did an excellent job. Obviously these financial issues, it’s hard to explain how we got to this point. I think in the long run, Edgartown will be better off for this unfortunate series of events.”

Harsh judgement

On January 31, retired Massachusetts Judge John Paul Sullivan issued a harshly critical report on billing irregularities, management lapses, and violations of public records laws at the wastewater department. Judge Sullivan, appointed as an independent counsel by selectmen in December, recommended that the wastewater commission fire Mr. Alosso.

In the 64-page report, Judge Sullivan wrote that Mr. Allosso showed what the judge described as extremely poor judgment and reckless disregard for the taxpayers of Edgartown, in relying on an honor system, by which septage haulers wrote down how much they dumped. Their entries were not cross-checked with records from a mechanical meter.

Judge Sullivan minced few words in outlining the cost of the billing irregularities to Edgartown taxpayers, and the department’s failure to comply with laws requiring town governments to keep financial records for seven years.

“A proper audit could not be conducted and, in this case, there were insufficient records to conduct an effective criminal investigation,” Judge Sullivan wrote. “We will never know how many gallons went unrecorded, and therefore unbilled, between 2002 and 2010. We know, based on the limited records available to the auditors who conducted the forensic audit, that there was a loss of almost $90,000 for the [18-month] period of the audit. We have no way of determining how many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars went unbilled between 2002 and 2010.”

Edgartown selectmen and the wastewater commissioners separately referred the matter to the state ethics commission, because police reports and court documents outlined allegations that wastewater commissioner Carter, and an unamed sitting selectmen, as well as former and current employees, were allowed to dump septage without paying the standard fees.

Judge Sullivan’s report said the unamed selectman is Michael Donoroma, but the judge’s investigation completely cleared Mr. Donaroma of any wrongdoing.

A criminal charge is pending in Edgartown District Court against septage hauler Jason Araujo. He was charged under a state law that makes it a crime to falsely procure government services.