TOMS RIVER – A series of leaked performance reviews and personnel memos authored by Ocean County College officials obtained by Ocean County Politics reveals allegations of mismanagement and incidents involving the usage of racial slurs by Fulvio Cesco-cancian, the former director of the college’s facilities department.
The memos shed light on past trouble in the Ocean County College facilities department that was first brought to light after employee complaints surfaced following a departmental reorganization that was finalized by college officials in fiscal year 2012.
Most of the documents that OCP has obtained in cooperation with our sister website JerseyLeaks.org were authored by Sara Winchester, the college’s executive vice president of finance and administration.
Ocean County Politics sought comment from Winchester prior to the publication of her memos or this article, however a phone call seeking comment was not immediately returned. An Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request has been filed with the college’s custodian of records by this reporter seeking additional documentation.
“Serious” Allegations Made After 2012, Other Investigations Spurred By Employee Complaints
In a September, 2012 performance review for the college’s then-director of facilities, Fulvio Cesco-cancian, Winchester detailed how college officials first became aware of the allegations of facilities department employees.
“On 7/1/12 the Facilities operation began reporting to the Vice President of Finance and Administration. Immediately after this reorganization, a major investigation was undertaken to address serious allegations made by several members of the Facilities Department staff. This investigation took months and disclosed a number of problems which led to other investigations. These investigations and related issues were complex and time consuming and revealed a dysfunctional organization.”
College VP: Evidence Of Inappropriate Behavior Was “Overwhelming”
Ms. Winchester wrote in a letter of reprimand to Cesco-cancian that concluded credible evidence of the then-facilities head’s inappropriate behavior was “overwhelming” and didn’t just come from employees that had a personal grudge against their supervisor.
Winchester’s March, 2012 memo came with the disclaimer that it only addressed his breaches of conduct that “…are clear and require immediate attention” as of that time, but continued to make the case against the former OCC department head’s behavior.
Failure To Discipline OCC Facilities Department Employees
“Despite my advice, you have indicated that you will not discipline employees in the future because employees who have been disciplined or should be disciplined for poor performance are trying to unfairly discredit you,” the executive vice president wrote.
“I must stress to you that any refusal to discipline employees would disqualify you as an effective manager cannot be tolerated,” Winchester continued. “You are expected to carry out all the responsibilities of your position and do so in a and civil and professional manner.”
Inappropriate Language And “Angry Outbursts”
Winchester also wrote that Cesco-cancian was warned to cease loud shouting and inappropriate language in the workplace.
“You were verbally warned by me and the President in regard to your use of inappropriate language and angry outbursts,” she wrote.
The full memo detailed a litany of alleged inappropriate conduct, including Cesco-cancian’s use of racial slurs on the job, such the “n” word and racial slurs against Chinese individuals. The former head of the OCC facilities department was also accused of regularly getting into heated confrontations with certain employees.
The Winchester letter indicated that as of March 6th, Cesco-cancian faced a 5-day unpaid suspension as a result of the inappropriate conduct detailed in her memo. At the time of his suspension, Cesco-cancian’s base salary was $93,946 per year.
VP: Cesco-cancian Failed To Monitor Employee Attendance, Allowed One To Have 59 Sick Days In One Year
Additional information surrounding the allegations against the former facilities director was provided in an addendum to Cesco-cancian’s performance evaluation authored by Leslie G. Cohen, who at the time was the college’s assistant vice president of human resources. Cohen has since been replaced by Tracey S. Donaldson.
The Cohen report detailed the former facilities director’s behavior following his second suspension from the county college.
“You have failed to monitor the attendance of employees and take the necessary corrective action (either personally or through the Managers that report to you),” Cohen wrote in a 2012 memo. “For example, Pietro Cardinale used 470 sick hours in FY12. That equates to 59 sick days in one year. Neither you nor his Manager took any disciplinary or corrective action.”
Cohen said that morale in the facilities department was “generally very low” under Cesco-Cancian and that her, the college’s HR department and even President Jon Larson’s office and would allegedly receive complaints from employees on a regular basis.
“This is evidenced by the fact that I as well as HR and the President’s Office continue to receive a variety of complaints from your staff on a regular basis,” Cohen wrote. “It is continually reported by workers that you do not talk to certain staff members and that you do not allow certain staff members to talk to one another. It is obvious that there are major communication problems throughout the Department.”
“Inadequate” Management Of School Work Order System
Cohen also took issue with Cesco-cancian’s failure to implement a computerized system purchased by the college at taxpayer expense.
“There is no system in place for monitoring inventory,” Cohen wrote. “The College Purchased Inventory Direct from School Dude several years and we have been paying maintenance on the product but not using it. When I realized that, I directed IT to work with your staff to implement the inventory module. It is not acceptable that this was not done until I intervened.”
Procurement Policy Violations
Cohen noted that there was a 2011 violation of the college’s procurement policy that occurred during Cesco-cancian’s tenure. The violation was in connection with repair work done by Cherry Hill Tractor.
“You were notified of the violation and took no correction action with your staff,” Cohen wrote in a memo directed to the former facilities director regarding the incident. “Again, I
had to initiate an investigation In order to find out what happened. This is unacceptable.”
Failure To Complete 2011 Performance Reviews
Cohen alleged that Cesco-cancian failed to complete performance reviews for employees that worked in his department during his tenure.
“In FY11 40 evaluations of staff were required under you,” she wrote “Of the 40, only 6 are on file in HR. Although you were not the Director in FY11, It was your responsibility to ensure that the evaluations were conducted and provided to HR for all the individuals in your chain of command.”
“Sexually Explicit Innuendo”
Cohen’s personnel action letter, which included a certified mail tracking number, corroborated Winchester’s account of events and detailed how Cesco-cancican was found to have violated the college’s civility statement and sexual harassment policy.
“Specifically, you violated the college’s Civility Statement when you cursed, raised your voice, and spoke in an angry tone at employees within your chain of command, as well as with colleagues outside of your department,” Cohen wrote. “This conduct was repeated on several occasions and witnessed and reported to the college by several employees. In addition, you violated the college’s policy relating to the prevention of sexual harassment when you used sexually explicit language and innuendo relating to female employees and female students. These comments were not made directly to these employees, but were indirect comments you made to colleagues. These comments were stated directly or overheard by employees who reported that these comments were offensive.”