About 50 people marched outside the Olean Municipal Building on Tuesday night to protest labor practices that some said are unfair and calculated to silence city employees.
Most of the protesters, who carried signs bearing the phrase "Fair and equal treatment for all," filed into the Olean Common Council chambers as a legislative session was about to get under way.
Kathy Maley said the protesters want to point out that city employees fear reprisals by Mayor James P. Griffin's administration for supporting non-Republican candidates. Maley is not a city employee and said she is a volunteer for City Assessor William J. Quinlan's Democratic mayoral campaign.
She said she has personal knowledge about questionable activities but declined to elaborate.
Several in the group carried an eight-point list of concerns, alleging the administration's political favoritism, disciplinary abuses and retaliation against workers for their personal affiliations and statements about workplace inequities.
While most refused to state specifics, some of the fears and dissent expressed on the picket line and during the public comment portion of the Council agenda seemed to stem from the mayor's recent demotion of deputy Fire Chief Paul Melfi to captain. Some pointed out that his wife, Democratic Alderwoman Joyce Melfi of Ward 2, is running for re-election in November.
In remarks to the Council, Olean cardiologist Henry Storch credited Melfi's work in rallying firefighter participation in the area's first advanced cardiac life-support training in the mid-1980s.
Storch described Melfi as someone who truly loves the community, adding he didn't care to know about the politics behind the situation.
"To give him the idea that perhaps he is not appreciated, that's just not right," Storch said.
Jim McCabe, a Jamestown Community College professor who said he spoke as a representative of the Cattaraugus-Allegany Central Labor Council, said he was informed of as many as four actions against employees that run counter to labor law and could result in legal action.
At the close of the session, Griffin refused to comment about his reason for changing Melfi's assignment, saying any statement would betray his administrative obligation to keep personnel matters confidential.
However, he did note that Lloyd Bennett was appointed deputy chief a week ago, replacing Melfi.
He said that Melfi's job as deputy chief was a management post and that such employment decisions are solely the mayor's responsibility under the city charter.