TUPPER LAKE - A former employee of Sunmount Developmental Center is making his displeasure at being fired well known.
Pete Boushie parked a trailer with a protest sign on it at the front entrance of the main Sunmount facility last Friday, then again Monday, Tuesday and today.
The sign reads:
Tupper Laker Pete Boushie has parked this trailer on state Route 3 in front of the front entrance to Sunmount Developmental Center last week and this week to protest his termination, as seen Tuesday afternoon.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
"14 months 700 hrs OT
"0 missed days
"fired 4 taken brothers funeral off
"Good job Stephanie & Gail"
Boushie started working as an aide at Sunmount on Dec. 8, 2010. It's typical for Sunmount employees to be on probation for one year, but Boushie's probation was extended.
He said he worked more than 700 hours of overtime in the 14 months he worked for the agency.
"As far as everyone said, I was an excellent employee," Boushie told the Enterprise. "I never missed a day of work; I was never late."
That is, until his brother's funeral. He submitted a request for the day off for the funeral 10 days ahead of time, citing personal reasons but not making it explicit that he wanted time off for a funeral because he didn't think it was anyone else's business, he said. He had Thursday and Friday off that week; then the funeral was Saturday, Jan. 7. He was notified on that Wednesday that his request for time off wouldn't be granted.
He said he planned to go in to work the day of the funeral, but it was too hard.
"I told my supervisor I was very heartbroken and I couldn't go in, and he understood," Boushie said.
He said he was told on March 19 that he was being terminated, and that the reason was because he didn't come in the day of the funeral.
After he was notified he was being fired, Boushie said he talked to Paul Maroun, village mayor and a member of the Sunmount Board of Visitors, and Sunmount Director Steve DeHond, who Boushie said agreed that his termination was wrong. They offered him the job back, but he had to start the entire process over again, getting fingerprints and a physical done again and starting over at the beginning of a year's probationary period. Boushie refused.
"I told them, 'Absolutely not,'" Boushie said. "I've been there for 14 months. There's nothing wrong with my performance. My performance was excellent. Either you give me my job back, or you fire me."
He said he decided to put up the sign to let people know what happened to him. He said he's gotten a lot of people voicing their support for him since he put it up.
"They're all giving me thumbs up and saying I did exactly what I should've did," Boushie said.
He said he checked with state police before putting it up to make sure it is legal.
The Stephanie referred to on the sign is Sunmount Assistant Deputy Director Stephanie Dunham, and Gail is Gail Smith, who Boushie calls the head of all the supervisors at Sunmount. Boushie accuses both the women of being responsible for his termination for personal reasons.
"This is all a vendetta between the two of them to get back at me," Boushie said.
He used to have a floor finishing business, and when he did that, he did a job at Dunham's house. He said they had a disagreement, and that she let that carry over into being his supervisor at Sunmount. As for Smith, they didn't get along at Sunmount, Boushie said.
Mark Kotzin, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, the union that tried to help Boushie, said the traineeship council at Sunmount, made up of union members and other Sunmount employees and administration, recommended that Boushie be terminated. He said the funeral was part of the reason he was fired.
"It was partially based on this one incident, but not solely based on that," Kotzin said.
Kotzin said Boushie's probation was extended by three months when he didn't meet all the requirements to get off of probation.
That being said, CSEA did try to help Boushie.
"The union did try to go to bat to get him restored to his job," Kotzin said. "We were not able to get him restored to work."
He said the offer that Boushie got to restart his employment there was unusual, but it was Sunmount's prerogative to offer it.
Maroun confirmed that he did work with Boushie to look into the matter. He noted that when an employee is on probation, the state can let that person go without a reason and the person has no formal process to grieve the decision, as an employee would if he or she was off probation.
"He was offered a job back," Maroun said. "That's the best I could do, and that's the best we could do.
"I thought the offer they gave him was better than not having a job."
Travis Proulx, spokesman for the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, said he wasn't going to discuss Boushie's employment history.
"He's entitled to put a sign where he wants to put a sign," Proulx told the Enterprise.
The bottom line, Proulx said, is there are many reasons why an employee could be terminated.
"If he says there's nothing, then that's interesting," Proulx said.
He declined to address specific accusations about any Sunmount employees or administrators.
Tekla Rydzewski of Rainbow Lake emailed the media to draw more attention to Boushie's sign. She said she wants people to know what's happening to him.
"It's a really horrible thing that they've done to him," Rydzewski said. "They can't be treating people that way. That public needs to know what's going on."