MERIDEN — The city of Meriden moved to terminate the employment of Assessor Melinda Fonda earlier this month after receiving a letter from the state Office of Policy and Management citing “several deficiencies.”
The letter followed complaints about Fonda’s behavior toward city employees and the public, according to documents obtained this week by the Record-Journal under the state Freedom of Information Act.
“This letter is to notify you of the city’s intent to terminate your employment as assessor,” City Manager Timothy Coon wrote in a Sept. 6 email to Fonda. “This decision is being considered in light of the Aug. 2, 2023 letter that the city received from the state Office of Policy and Management where several deficiencies were found.”
“This along with your lengthy history of ineffective and abrupt interpersonal communication skills have put the City in a position where it must defend its interest and respond in an appropriate manner,” the email continued.
Fonda could not be reached for comment. Coon was unavailable for comment on Thursday.
Coon’s email notified Fonda she was being placed on administrative leave pending a due process hearing. The email cited “numerous complaints about (Fonda’s) aggressive and demeaning behavior towards citizens, colleagues, and your subordinates.”
The due process hearing with Fonda and her union representative was scheduled for Sept. 8. According to Josephine Agnello-Veley, the city’s human resources director, Fonda remained on paid administrative leave as of Thursday.
Coon’s email stated that Fonda had received training since being notified of performance concerns and “failed to correct (her) behavior as directed.”
Fonda receives an annual salary of $122,928.
A notice on the door of the assessor’s office Thursday stated that the office “will be closed from 12-1 for lunch daily until further notice due to staffing issues.”
The letter from OPM referenced in Coon’s email could not immediately be obtained.
Records in Fonda’s personnel file state that a behavioral issued involving a colleague in February also led to a due process hearing. Records also indicate Fonda received verbal counseling sessions provided by the city on at least two occasions last year, May 25 and Aug. 11.
“When work problems present themselves during the usual course of business, you are expected to approach your colleagues in a collegial and professional manner that attempts to genuinely help to solve the problem rather than create obstacles to any potential resolution,” Angello-Veley told Fonda via email in early February. “As it relates to your direct reports, moving forward, if you have any constructive feedback or work-related critique to offer, it should be done in private and in a manner that does not humiliate or embarrass your direct reports.
“The themes of your interpersonal exchanges with citizens, colleagues and direct reports are all the same or very similar making it difficult for the City to support your behaviors … if this pattern of unacceptable work behavior and unprofessionalism continues, the City will take progressive action, up to and including termination of employment,” the email stated.
Angello-Veley declined to comment further about Fonda’s employment, only noting that she had yet to be terminated. Fonda’s representative with the United Public Service Employees Union could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Since assuming the position of assessor in 2019, Fonda has been a source of controversy for the city, particularly relating to tax-exempt property.
The Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA filed a lawsuit last year claiming the assessor’s office improperly and illegally assessed taxes on more than a dozen properties owned by the organization that had been previously considered tax exempt.
The YMCA was among a group of at least four nonprofit organizations that filed legal complaints challenging tax assessments over the past two years.