City should not delay action on accused worker

AFSCME Local 74, the union that represents many Warren city workers, is asking Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa to delay making a decision on any disciplinary action of a city worker already convicted once of theft and now accused again, this time of taking for his personal use a $299 lawn mower stored on city property.

Union leadership at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 74, sent a letter last week arguing that accused city worker Dennis Griffing should be permitted to continue on the job until the theft case is disposed of.

Griffing, 57, pleaded not guilty June 15 in Warren Municipal Court to a charge of petty theft. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing later this month before Judge Thomas Gysegem.

He remains free on bond and on the job in the city’s operations department pending the outcome of the pre-disciplinary hearing held before Cantalamessa about two weeks ago. According to labor union rules, Cantalamessa was supposed to issue any disciplinary action by today — 10 business days since the hearing.

When asked last week, Cantalamessa said only that the union’s request is under his consideration.

This isn’t the first theft charge that Griffing has faced. In 2013, Griffing was convicted of stealing a large number of newspapers over a year’s time from Tribune Chronicle coin boxes.

At the time, Griffing had admitted to police he routinely stole stacks of newspapers out of different coin boxes and gave them to fellow city employees. He pleaded no contest to a charge of theft and was placed into a diversion program by Municipal Court Judge Terry Ivanchak. Griffing was told if he completed the diversion program and made full restitution, the case against him would be dismissed.

But he didn’t make full restitution, and in fact, he still owes the newspaper $1,735.50 of the $2,235.50 he was ordered to pay. The court turned Griffing’s case over to a collections agency.

In the meantime, Griffing continues to work and earn time towards his eventual public retirement that could come before the latest theft case is even disposed of.

Hired in October 1988, Griffing, brother of former city Auditor David Griffing, earns $19.67 per hour. He is an equipment operator in the operations department. He will reach his 30th year of employment with the city in October, increasing the likelihood that Griffing would be able to retire and collect his full taxpayer-funded public pension.

Cantalamessa should reject the union request to delay his decision and make his ruling today, within the normal designated timeframe.