Employees Claim a Pattern of Abuse at Groton Utilities

GROTON – According to disciplinary records obtained by CT Examiner, complaints by employees of Groton Utilities suggest a pattern of hostile and abusive behavior including bullying, tantrums and threats, that led to the ongoing suspension of Director Ron Gaudet.

A number of attempts to reach Gaudet for comment have been unsuccessful.

“You don’t know what you’re doing … I am gonna be your worst f….ng nightmare,” Gaudet threatened one employee as he pounded on his desk, according to one employee complaint.

“I will sign your retirement paperwork and walk you out the door right now,’ he screamed at another employee in a separate incident in April, according to another complaint, one of at least nine outlined in the documents, obtained from Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick through a Freedom of Information request.

Other complaints claim that Gaudet made several inappropriate age-related comments to employees. “Anyone with over 20 years is useless here,” said Gaudet, according to the documents which were signed by Hedrick and on the Mayor’s letterhead.

The complaints suggest that Hedrick himself didn’t escape the wrath of Gaudet, a former Navy officer, Pfizer engineer and facilities director at UConn, who was suspended on Sept. 20 for a month without pay from the $189,000 a year job he has held since 2015.

“If he (the Mayor) wants to come over here and do my job let him do” it, the documents quote Gaudet as saying in a May meeting before throwing papers around while repeatedly using the F-word.  

Gaudet is scheduled to return to work on Oct. 18.

In a telephone interview today, Hedrick was asked if he had any concerns about Gaudet’s ability to lead the utility, which has about 200 employees and serves about 15,000 customers in southeastern Connecticut.

Hedrick referred CT Examiner to a document he had signed detailing the allegations.

“Further, I understand that the morale in your department is unacceptable based upon the fact that you created a hostile work environment. I question your leadership of the department,” Hedrick wrote Gaudet.

In another document, Hedrick went on to say that Gaudet was in danger of losing his job if he did not comply with all the requirements of his reinstatement, including not appealing the suspension and undergoing “mutual respect” training and other counseling.

“This is your final warning with respect to conduct of this nature,” Hedrick wrote. “Conduct that is verbally abusive or bullying is unacceptable. You are hereby given notice that if you engage in conduct which contravenes the City’s Employee Conduct Policy in the future, you will be subject to further discipline, up to and including termination of employment.”

Other incidents of misconduct claimed in the documents include the following:

“You questioned a purchase order for a GU client by two employees, and then on April 30, you were yelling and banging your fists so hard the employees could not understand what you were saying.”

“At a May 5 Labor Management meeting, you got up from the table and shouted ‘what the f..k’ and ripped the cover off the thermostat and threw it in the corner.”

“You went into the office of an employee and threw a ‘tantrum,’ threatened to take away certain responsibilities and administrative controls like badge access and surveillance footage.”

“At a Monday meeting (I assume in the spring), you threw papers in response to the Mayor signing personnel paperwork, and swore.”

“You acted like a bully in addressing employees who were seated by walking over to them and standing over them.”

“In an August 13, 2018 meeting with (redacted), you pounded your fist on the desk and shouted, ‘I have ten million f..kin dollars in the checkbook, and I will spend it all to complete the project.”

Gaudet was put on administrative leave on Sept. 7, and had his employee badge, cell phone and access to the utility’s digital system taken away, as well as being banned from the Meridian Street property, which also includes City Hall.

He was allowed into the utility the next day for a disciplinary hearing in Hedrick’s office.

Hedrick also prohibited Gaudet’s participation in the business of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, which serves Groton’s and seven other smaller utilities in the state.

Gaudet and Hedrick serve on the CMEEC’s board of directors, and Gaudet is chair of its governance committee.

Gaudet in 2017 was found in violation of Groton’s municipal code of ethics stemming from his attendance at a CMEEC junket to the 2016 Kentucky Derby that led to resignations and federal indictments against several other attendees, who are scheduled to go on trial in New Haven in November.

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