Public Works Director David Cangemi was relieved of his duties last Friday, after more than a decade with the city, by Councilman Glen Cummins, who is acting city manager while Canton looks for a replacement for Scott Wood.
Cummins, who is in his third year in office, said he wants to change the way the public works depart-ment operates and he didn’t think Cangemi was a good fit anymore.
“There’s a change in direction that I’m taking in public works and I need a different skill set,” Cummins said Wednesday. “It’s not necessarily (that there were) issues. It’s just that I see the department being managed and operated differently than it has in the past. And I’m going to change it.”
Cum-mins said he is looking for a new public works head who has more profi-ciency with computers, planning and scheduling and using a work order system.
Attempts to reach Cangemi for response on his qualifications weren’t successful Wednesday.
When asked why the longtime employee was let go just before this week’s snowstorm, which some are billing as the biggest in some time, Cummins said that wasn’t something he thought about, because forecasts weren’t as developed Friday.
“I didn’t know (the snow) was coming through, did I?” he said. “That was not a consideration and it has no impact whatsoever, his being here, on what we’re doing. It has absolutely zero effect.”
Cummins said the public works department has about 20 employees and the two of those have a wealth of experience are essentially taking charge of the department for the time being, as the city is advertising for a new head. As of Wednesday morning, Cummins said the weather wasn’t hurting the city much, partly because residents seemed to have taken the tip to stay off the roads.
Mayor Gene Hobgood said he also didn’t believe Cangemi’s absence during the weather was an issue.
“I don’t think it’s having any effect,” Hobgood said Wednesday. “A lot of these guys have been there a long time and they pretty much know what their priorities are.”
Asked how he felt about Cummins’ decision to let the public works head go, the mayor said he didn’t think it was his place to comment on Cummins’ decisions.
“My take is the council gave Mr. Cummins full authority,” he said. “That’s all I can tell you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t (my decision) to make.”
The council voted in mid-January to make Cummins acting city manager as a search was ramping up for a replacement for Wood, who resigned minutes before the first meeting of the year. A clarification was then made during last Thursday’s council meeting to make it clear Cummins had full authority.
Councilman Hooky Huffman said, considering the weather, the timing of the move to get rid of Cangemi could have been better.
“Obviously, the timing of it, with what we’re experiencing, might not have been appropriate,” Huffman said Wednesday.
Huffman said he was also surprised Cummins seemingly didn’t discuss the move with his fellow council members, though Huffman could really only speak for what discussion he had with Cummins before Cangemi was let go.
“He sure didn’t discuss it with me,” he said. “Mr. Cummins called on that Friday afternoon. ... I was in total shock.”
Through the years, Huffman said Cangemi had been a good employee.
“Cangemi has done a lot of great things for the city,” he said. “He’ll go out of his way to help any citizen. He does go out of his way to please our citizens.”
But Huffman said the public works head’s tenure with the city has at times been checkered.
“I have heard some stories that were not real pleasing,” he said.
One story that wasn’t favorable came out in March 2012 when a man spoke at a council meeting urging the council to take action after Cangemi allegedly sexually harassed the man, who had been doing court-ordered community service with the city.
An open records request by the Tribune later showed that the city manager had written a letter reprimanding Cangemi and noting that the public works head admitted to referring to the man in a derogatory manner and to making a comment about an employee’s sexuality. The employee had tapped Cangemi on the backside before the comment, records showed.
“That was unfortunate and kind of a black mark on him,” Huffman said. “I don’t know of any other events.”
When asked if there were any particular incidents that led up to Cangemi getting let go, Cummins said no.
“There’s no (negative) remarks put in his file,” Cummins said. “I just didn’t feel that he could adapt to the significant changes. I’ll be very honest: it’s a hard decision. I don’t like to let anybody go.”
Cummins wanted to be clear that Cangemi wasn’t fired, but instead was laid off. Had there been another job available for Cangemi to move into, he would have, Cummins said.
“He was laid off because I didn’t have another job that matched his particular background,” Cummins said. “He wasn’t fired. The word’s not fired. He is eligible for unemployment and everything else. He was laid off.”