Thursday, November 5, 2009


Unless you've been living on a Tibetan mountaintop for the past two weeks, you've probably heard at least something about the work-place sex scandal surrounding ESPN broadcaster/former Mets manager Steve Phillips and his apparently consensual partner, Brooke Hundley.  Both have recently received their walking papers from their employer.

In a statement to the NY Post, an ESPN executive acknowledged that the company does not currently have a written policy against workplace romances but " . . .clearly when those relationships do occur, they can present conflicts. And when those relationships present a conflict or potential conflict, we'll take appropriate action."  (See )

Sounds like they've got it right, even if they have closed the barn door after the horses have escaped.  But at least they've done something, which is more than our mayor Jack Martins has done about a situation he has known about for years:  the relationship between Mineola's Building Superintendent and one of his secretaries.

Office romances are common and many people meet their significant others through work.  But it becomes extremely problematic when a relationship occurs between a supervisor and his subordinate; never more so than in a municipal setting.  The opportunities for abuse are rife and that is why both the federal government and our county government discourages it.

You have to be a complete idiot to not see where such a relationship can lead:  workplace lovers covering up each others mistakes.  Raises and bonuses being given out based not on the merits of a person's office performance, but on their performance between the sheets.  And of course, there is always the potential post-breakup sexual harassment lawsuit.  Thus it behooves every employer - but most especially municipalities - to have a strict conflict of interest policy in place and to enforce it.

The Village of Mineola does address conflict of interest issues in Chapter 4 of the code and this has been brought to the Mayor's attention.  The mayor received several complaints about Dan Whalen's relationship with Karen Calabro, but nobody ever said anything publicly.  People wanted to give him the chance to do the right thing by transferring her or firing him, but he never did.  Ultimately, Mayor Martins was questioned directly at the public sessions as to whether he had ever received complaints about ANY relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate. (NO names were mentioned at the time.)  He absolutely lied, right on TV, to all his constituents by saying he had not.  Well Jack was caught with his pants down and at a subsequent meeting he was reprimanded very loudly and vehemently by a taxpayer who had met with him privately years prior to complain about the relationship.  Soon after this very public spanking the meetings were yanked off the air for six months until the board could figure out a way to try to keep the lid on things.

In shutting down the Channel 18 broadcasts, Martins expressed concern that village employees were being slandered on TV.  Well in order for something to be slander it has to be untrue.  The fact of the matter is that these two have been involved in a relationship for several years.  They go out on vacation at the same time.  They work out at the same gym.  She spends weekends at his house.  Now would this be a problem if they worked in different departments?  Not at all.  But she reports to him.  And it has created problems within Village Hall for years.  Problems that are beginning to surface more and more, and ultimately the taxpayers - we who subsidize the salaries of Whalen, Calabro AND the mayor - will be paying for it in spades.

Payback's a bitch.