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Emails Detail ‘Hostile Work’ Setting In City

DUNKIRK — In announcing her resignation as planning and development director for the city of Dunkirk on Tuesday, Jill Meaux cited a “political work environment.” It was apparently much worse than that.

According to documents received through a Freedom of Information Law request by the OBSERVER, Meaux sent a letter to Mayor Wilfred Rosas to report “ongoing incidents of a hostile work environment.” In her complaint she names Paul VanDenVouver, outgoing councilman at-large, and Don Williams, First Ward councilman. Meaux says the incidents of harassment occurred on July 6, 12, 13 and 20.

Most of her complaints appear to revolve around the Community Development Block Grant funding, which became a source of controversy during the summer when funding for scoreboards and other items at the Wright Park complex for the Dunkirk Little League worth $20,400 were being sought by Common Council. On July 13, despite objections by Rosas and Meaux, the council voted unanimously to give the league $20,400 instead of $2,500, while cutting the line for a program helping first-time homebuyers with closing costs from $27,000 to $9,100.

Both Rosas and Meaux at that meeting noted those federal funds come with objectives that need to be followed with strict guidelines. Dunkirk Little League, later that month, rescinded its request due to being part of a political battle.

But public comments made during that July session, according to the documents, led to what Meaux sensed as degrading remarks on phone calls, in meetings and e-mails.

Some of those examples she cited include:

¯ VanDenvouver emailing council members and a member of Meaux’s staff “disparaging remarks about my job performance undering my authority, respect and ability to perform my job” on July 12.

¯ VanDenvouver telling Meaux, “This is why I want your resignation” on July 13, which also includes a correspondence later that day from Williams that notes “I wouldn’t expect anything but how you handled it though. Typical!!”

¯ During an executive session, she said VanDenVouver used intimidating language telling her “there’s going to be hell to pay” on July 20. Meaux said she “took that as a threat of violence and/or retribution.” She also noted all council members were at the meeting as was city attorney Richard Morrisroe and Rosas.

Meaux, in the July 14 letter, was definitely emotional regarding the interactions. “This abuse affected me so much that I had to leave work … and take a sick day,” she wrote.

Meaux’s final day working with the city was Friday. She is the second person in less than a year to resign from that position. In December, Rebecca Wurster left to work with Chautauqua County.

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