Former Meriden city manager’s cell phone use included calls to lawyer, city staff

Former Meriden city manager’s cell phone use included calls to lawyer, city staff

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MERIDEN — In the months since former City Manager Guy Scaife was fired, he has used his city-funded cellphone to communicate with the lawyer representing him in a federal lawsuit against the city, to coordinate the sale of his home and to maintain contact with two people he hired for city jobs. The city has continued to pay Scaife’s cellphone bills as part of a six-month benefit package set to expire in June.

The Record-Journal obtained Scaife’s phone records through a Freedom of Information Act request. The records date back to Nov. 18, 2017, one month before Scaife was terminated, and list 512 phone calls.

Scaife did not return a request for comment Friday. 

City Council Democrats voted to fire Scaife “without cause” Dec. 18 in an 8-4 party line vote, citing an escalating level of discord at City Hall. Scaife filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month claiming city officials retaliated against him. 

Per the “without cause” termination option in Scaife’s contract, the city will continue to pay $84,150 of Scaife’s salary, as well as health insurance and benefits, including a cellphone, through June 18. Scaife has an unlimited data plan for $49.35 a month.

While city officials initially informed Scaife they would be cutting off his cellphone benefit, the city decided to continue paying the bill to avoid further litigation after Scaife insisted he was entitled to the benefit, citing a vague clause in his contract. 

About half the calls, 253, were between Scaife and members of his family. 

Of calls not between Scaife and his family, the most occurred with Eddie Siebert, who helped coordinate the sale of Scaife’s home.

“Those conversations were all real estate related,” Siebert said. “We kept it purely (business).”

Eleven of the calls were between Scaife and the lawyer representing him in a federal lawsuit against the city, Heena Kapadia. Their first conversation occurred Dec. 4, two weeks prior to Scaife’s termination, when they spoke for 14 minutes. On the day Scaife was fired, there were four calls between them, the longest lasting for 28 minutes that afternoon. They exchanged several calls lasting over 20 minutes in late December and January and spoke for 18 minutes on Feb. 6. 

Kapadia declined to comment on “any communication with my client.”

Records show Scaife maintained communication with Russ Ford, the former director of facilities and technology management, until February, two weeks before Ford resigned. Scaife created the position shortly after he was hired, and appointed Ford, who held the same job for him in Rocky Hill, without posting the opening.

Records show Scaife and Ford exchanged 16 calls since Scaife was fired, most recently speaking for 14 minutes on Feb. 3. Ford did not return a request for comment Friday. 

Scaife also stayed in contact with communications manager Cheryl Costello, who was hired at the same time as Ford without a job posting and also worked under Scaife in Rocky Hill in a similar capacity. Scaife and Costello have exchanged nine phone calls since Scaife’s termination, speaking for over an hour on Jan. 29 and most recently for 15 minutes on March 4.

Costello did not return a requests for comment. 

City Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn said the phone records seem to indicate “a pre-existing relationship between the two of them which explains how Mr. Ford was hired into a newly created position without any application process … Same thing (with Costello).” 

Quinn said Scaife’s continued contact with Costello was not cause for immediate concern. It was unclear Friday what level of information access Costello has within City Hall.

“I know that she has access because of her position,” Quinn said. “I don’t know how much she can access and at the end of the day most of what we do is subject to Freedom of Information anyway, though I would have a concern if someone was passing along information that we would have had a valid reason under FOI not to disclose. That would concern me but there’s no evidence that has occurred.“

“I would trust that Cheryl Costello has handled this appropriately and I would not be concerned that she has done anything inappropriate,” Quinn said.

Scaife also exchanged nine phone calls with local attorney Dennis Ceneviva, who could not be reached for comment. Records show Police Chief Jeffry Cossette called Scaife three times since Scaife’s termination, most recently on Jan. 31 when the two spoke for 18 minutes. 

Cossette did not return a request for comment. 

Attorney Michael Rose, who specializes in public sector litigation, shared five calls with Scaife. Rose said some of those calls may have involved former police captain Patrick Gaynor’s pending state Labor Board case, in which Rose represents the city.

Scaife was called as a witness in the case and Rose said one of his March calls with Scaife “could have been about that.” 

Quinn said Scaife had “unfettered use” of the cellphone while serving as city manager, but was puzzled as to why Scaife would continue using the phone after he was fired.

“I just don’t understand,” Quinn said, “why someone would want to continue to hold onto a government cell phone after they were terminated from the government job knowing full well that all of your calls are now going to face public scrutiny.”

Twitter: @LeighTaussRJ