MOUNT VERNON — Three employees at the Mount Vernon water/wastewater department were recently disciplined following a “horseplay” incident at the Ridgewood Avenue facility on Oct. 28, that left one employee with a broken finger.
Michael Walker, maintenance worker, and Donald Basye, pipefitter, were originally given a three-day suspension without pay on Nov. 7, after Safety-Service Director Dave Glass talked with the two men when it was brought to his attention that Gregory Branstool, maintenance worker, was treated at the emergency department of Knox Community Hospital. Glass told the News the oral statements he received from Walker and Basye were similar in that they both stated they were joking with Branstool about who would pay for lunch that day. As they “playfully” grabbed Branstool to retrieve his wallet, Branstool lost his footing and fell to the ground. A few minutes later, they said Branstool was complaining that his finger was hurting and reportedly went to the emergency room the following day.
Glass said the three-day suspension was appropriate because he felt Branstool was a victim in the scenario and suffered an injury.
Walker and Basye then filed grievances. And after calling all three in for another meeting and hearing what Glass said was a more vague story, Glass decided to perform a re-issue of disciplinary action, giving all three involved a one-day suspension without pay on Nov. 29.
In documents acquired by the News through a public records request, the water/wastewater employees explained the incident as “joking around.” “We were tussling around and laughing,” said Walker. According to Basye, “We were all laughing ... I grabbed him playfully.” Branstool stated he did not believe the incident was malicious. “Don grabbed me jokingly ... they did not intend to hurt me,” he said.
The disciplinary report submitted by Glass for all three individuals stated, “The interaction went significantly beyond horseplay and is more clearly defined as fighting.”
“It was more than horseplay because somebody was hurt. But they weren’t really fighting,” said Glass. In explaining that some discipline had to be handed out, he said that a group one violation on a discipline form describes horseplay, and that a group three violation describes fighting. The three were issued a group two violation.
“It landed in between these. It was a judgment call,” said Glass. “I had to put it into one of these groups because they needed to be disciplined. Hopefully, they learned something.”