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August 8, 2013

Methuen custodians suspended over canceled detail

METHUEN — The four custodians who recently were suspended were punished for working a special detail that had been canceled, according to the custodial union president.

The custodians, William Copp, Douglas Crawford, Michael Ovoian and Thomas Thompson, had been assigned to Timony Grammar School, showed up for the shift last spring and worked even though they found the detail had been canceled, said Thomas Branco, president of the Methuen Custodial Association.

“They had a detail and the administration caught on that the detail was canceled, but the guys worked the shift anyway,” Branco said. “It wasn’t a time card thing. It wasn’t like they were time card stealing. They weren’t punching in without being there. It was miscommunication.”

The four men negotiated with the School Department administration on the punishment, which was a 10-day suspension to be served one day per week over 10 weeks. They also all were reassigned to other schools, he said.

Branco said the crew worked during the shift, finding things to do for the hours they were assigned.

“They didn’t go and just leave. They stayed for their scheduled time,” he said. He could not recall the date of the detail shift, but said it was in April or May.

Superintendent Judith Scannell has said she cannot comment on personnel issues. Yesterday, she provided information on the employees’ most recent assignments.

Crawford is assigned to Marsh Grammar School, Thompson to Tenney Grammar School, Ovoian to Comprehensive Grammar School and Copp to Methuen High School.

Mayor Stephen Zanni said last month that it was important that the city take action on the matter. He declined to comment further yesterday afternoon.

Branco said he appreciated the administration negotiating on the suspensions and was glad it was taken care of “in-house.”

“When the administration wants to work with you, it’s a nice feeling,” he said. “Some administrations you can work with better than others.”

The custodians began their suspensions in June.

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