Former Pouch Cove mayor sues NAPE to get job back

Daniel MacEachern
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It’s union versus union over the dismissal of former Pouch Cove mayor Sarah Patten.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents unionized employees of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees — NAPE — is claiming breach of contract by NAPE, which fired Patten last year from her job as executive secretary to NAPE president Carol Furlong amid conflict-of-interest allegations.

It’s the latest twist in a tangled story of alleged harassment and union solidarity.

According to court documents, in September 2011, Melina Osmond, Pouch Cove’s former assistant town clerk, filed a grievance — with NAPE, which represents unionized Pouch Cove town staff — against the town, alleging harassment by another employee. Patten was involved with discussions about the grievance, which was settled around June 2012. At a town council meeting the following month, council approved a motion from then-councillor Roxana Furlong-McGrath that declared Patten to be in a conflict of interest regarding all NAPE discussions, negotiations and settlements.

Furlong-McGrath also asked council to declare Patten’s seat vacant for not previously declaring a conflict of interest when dealing with matters between her employer and the town, but the motion was defeated.

In October 2012, Patten went on stress leave, with plans to return to work on the first business day of 2013. The following month, UFCW filed a grievance against NAPE and NAPE president Carol Furlong, alleging harassment. In January, Patten was notified by NAPE that she was being placed on paid leave while the matter was investigated. In March last year, according to UFCW’s application, Furlong-McGrath told Furlong that Patten had accused Furlong-McGrath, Furlong and Frank Pittman, NAPE’s employee relations officer, of being “in cahoots” in settling Osmond’s grievance. In early April says the UFCW, Patten was fired by NAPE. In her termination letter, Furlong said “the bond of trust is critical” for Patten’s position with the union.

“You have irrevocably broken that trust,” reads the letter, according to the application filed by UFCW. “Notwithstanding that you are a longtime employee with a clean disciplinary record, your actions were such that the bond of trust cannot be reestablished. Your false, malicious, reckless, defamatory and vexatious allegations undermine and damage the credibility, reputation and public image of the president, the office of the president, its employees and NAPE and cannot be ignored.”

UFCW’s application says Patten’s case should have been handled through arbitration, and that she should have continued to be employed until the decision of an arbitrator. Since she was fired, says UFCW, Patten has lost employment income, health benefits and dental care, RSP contributions and a motor-vehicle allowance, among other benefits. The union claims breach of contract, and wants the court to award Patten damages and costs and reinstate her until the matter is handled by arbitration.

A spokesman for NAPE president Furlong said the union wouldn’t comment on a matter currently before the courts. Patten similarly declined to comment, referring the Telegram to her union rep and lawyer, neither of whom returned messages seeking comment.

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Geographic location: Pouch Cove

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Recent comments

  • wake up
    February 13, 2014 - 08:55

    It's clear none of you don't know anything. Patten isn't liked by people in Pouch cove especially after the incident with Mr Jordan. She deserved what she got. She interfered with union grievances and she has nobody to blame but herself. Get your facts straight before you comment people its clear you didn't.

  • Sylvia burden Legrow
    January 28, 2014 - 18:28

    I feel this lady has been wrongly fired from her position as Mayor of Pouch Cove , MS. Patten i say keep the good fight you are truly a fine lady , Justices will pervail !

  • Jimmy Parsons JR.
    January 28, 2014 - 06:43

    IRA for mayor of Pouch Cove. Good riddance Patten.

  • Sammy
    January 27, 2014 - 13:20

    Nape Is a joke and does nothing for its members except collect dues and by the look of this does nothing for its staff either they get away with too much of this sculdivery hope Ms Patten wins her case and Nape learns a lesson... Yeah Solidarity sisters and brothers what's joke is right!!!!! Good luck Patten!!! Sounds like a clear cut case to me !!!

  • Good luck Patten!!
    January 27, 2014 - 12:59

    Chris I can understand the confusion because of the all of the references to furlong and furlong-McGrath but appears to me that Roxana and nape president, Carol are closely related and auntie or cousin or whatever the relation has fired Sara based on whatever it is Roxana had a beef with her about... I'm happy to see this come to justice and hope that Patten gets what she deserves... Read this again and I would say I'm absolutely right that carol and Roxana are related and that makes this more understandable... Too much of this stuff goes on without any justice being done and fair is square ... Sarah Patten is a very we'll respected lady in the town of Pouch Cove and with everyone who knows her personally!!! All the very best to you and I hope you get well compensated for all the undue stress that went with it!!!

  • chris
    January 27, 2014 - 10:04

    I don't understand any of this! I'm not uneducated, but there is too much mumbo jumbo to understand and follow exactly what is going on in this story!!

  • RATTER 01
    January 27, 2014 - 08:47

    S O L I D A R I T Y sisters and brothers. What a joke.