In a mid-June annual review, the Swampscott Board of Selectmen pinned “very satisfied” ratings on city administrator Sean Fitzgerald’s job performance.
But a September 17 memorandum that Swampscott’s most recent human resources manager, Tanya Shallop, emailed to the Swampscott school committee and those selected on the day she left town employment offers a different tale. .
In her six-page internal memorandum that The Swampscott Reporter obtained and authenticated, Shallop lists what she called “major problems,” missteps over the past year that she says have cost tens of thousands. dollars to Swampscott taxpayers, could have cost them even more. money and left the city vulnerable to serious debt.
The memorandum points out that Swampscott billed some city employees for the benefits they requested and “rightly believed they were enrolled”, including health insurance, but the city did not take the necessary steps to register them.
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âNot only is this inconvenient for our employees, it also opens us up to potential lawsuits,â Shallop wrote. “They will rightly look to the city to pay the costs that their insurance would have covered.”
Shallop’s memo recounts a Swampscott employee’s months-long attempt to get a deduction refund after the city withdrew money from the employee’s paycheck for benefits he didn’t never been registered.
“He was even penalized on his taxes for not having insurance,” Shallop wrote. “It languished for months, making him and his colleagues frustrated and disillusioned with the city administration.”
Attachments to the September memorandum include a letter from Sun Life Financial informing the city that the insurance company canceled health and accident insurance for non-payment on January 1, 2021 – but employees were still being billed for the insurance, according to Shallop.
“If we do not receive all unpaid premiums by midnight on March 8, 2021, this account can be transferred to our external collection agency,” the February 8 letter reads. “We can take any other steps necessary to protect our interests.”
The cost to local taxpayers
The city paid benefits to dozens of former employees for more than 10 months, Shallop wrote. In doing so, the note notes that Swampscott suffered a financial blow because the city failed to reconcile and nullify the benefits.
âIn one particularly costly incident, an employee resigned in October 2020, and we continued to pay his medical insurance close to $ 2,000 / month without any contribution from him until I recently canceled it,â Shallop wrote. “That problem alone – which could have been easily rectified if reconciliation had taken place cost the city nearly $ 20,000 in unnecessary losses.”
She added, âThe total amount of benefit costs absorbed by the city due to a failure to reconcile and cancel benefits in a timely manner is close to $ 70,000 and it continues. “
At one point, Shallop noted that Swampscott retirees were not notified of open enrollment and that insurance rates had not been updated for fiscal 2022, affecting some 250 employees.
“The discrepancies that were found have been corrected and do not materially affect the city’s strong financial position now or in the future,” Fitzgerald said in a statement Monday to the Swampscott Reporter. âSwampscott’s finance team is strong and focused on successfully running a large and complex benefits program for hundreds of employees.
Shallop stressed that other municipalities would not tolerate such “big mistakes”.
“Incredibly surprised, disappointed and overwhelmed”
Shallop, the city’s third human resources director in less than a year since Julie DeLillo left in September 2020, wrote that she inherited a disastrous human resources department. She found hundreds of unanswered voicemails, an overcrowded mailbox, and hundreds of unfilled and spilled sheets of paper when she arrived in mid-July.
âWithin days of taking this position, it was evident that there were major issues that had not been resolved. Mistakes and neglect had accumulated over the past year, âshe wrote. “There was an absence of staff to even help me with the basics of the human resources department.”
Fitzgerald has said he respects Shallop’s views, but believes her short tenure has not placed her “in the best position to fully understand” the inner workings and professional relationships of Swampscott Town Hall.
“We have certainly valued the opinions expressed by Ms. Shallop, whether constructive or unfair, and we have always believed that lessons can be learned from both,” said Fitzgerald. “These issues are constant and ever-changing, especially during this pandemic, as we have all faced many new challenges in a world that is simply turned upside down.”
Unlike his predecessors – DeLillo and Ricardo Flores – Shallop did not leave with severance pay in hand. DeLillo’s severance pay entitles him to a regular annual salary of $ 123,000 until spring 2021; Flores received $ 25,384 for his severance package after a three-month tenure.
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Swampscott hired Shallop, a lawyer and certified human resources professional, to head a city department that authorities restructured in 2018. The changes place the human resources functions of local public schools and the city under one principal.
Prior to Swampscott, Shallop was Deputy City Administrator and Director of Human Resources at Middleton for over two years. Previously, she was Senior Government Services Specialist at the University of Massachusetts, Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management in Boston, where she performed, in part, “Human Resources Analysis, Compensation Plans and classification, policy reviews â. The Collins Center improves “efficiency, effectiveness, governance and accountability at all levels of government, with a particular focus on state and local governments.”
In his September 17 memo, Shallop also details his general observations on the condition of Swampscott Town Hall and Swampscott Public Schools.
“School management and staffing are doing well: leadership and communication are strong and experienced staff are in key positions,” Shallop wrote. âThe city lacks functionality in several crucial ways: There has been a lot of turnover in administrative and financial positions. ”
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Prior to his resignation in September, Shallop brought his urgent concerns to the attention of school superintendent Pamela Angelakis and Fitzgerald in an August 12 memorandum.
âI am incredibly surprised, disappointed and overwhelmed with the status of this department,â Shallop wrote. “It certainly wasn’t my expectation when I started just a few weeks ago.”
Fitzgerald worried that Shallop was wrapped on the chin.
âWith all of this, part of the responsibilities I have as a city administrator is to deal with criticism, although I think some of it is unfair,â Fitzgerald said.
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The August memorandum lists the elements that Shallop requested to do his job – from “an organizational chart of the city’s administrative and financial services” to “engaging and prioritizing the resolution of these issues and those that are. discovered “.
Angelakis responded to the request for support, according to Shallop’s September 17 memorandum.
âIn addition to a flurry of emails on the day of the [Aug. 12] memo, I did not receive any follow-up from Mr. Fitzgerald the following week, âshe wrote. “Several important things still haven’t been delivered or addressed, including providing something as basic as my job description.”
When Shallop followed up on “substantial turnover” and “lack of attention to benefits,” she wrote, Fitzgerald played them down or “seemed not to care.”
When she told him about the Medicare rate update, she wrote, âHe’s completely changed the subject.
Members of the Swampscott Board of Selectmen did not return the Swampscott Reporter’s request for comment.