Taxpayers said they are not happy to hear a former Hartford city employee may have been doing a side job on city time during the aftermath of a snowstorm last winter.
"He's supposed to be doing his job. Taking care of the city, instead, he's doing himself a favor," Wendel Ferreria, a Hartford taxpayer told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
The impact of winter 2017 could still be felt across Connecticut well into March. City crews across the state, including then-Hartford schools employee Greg Hooper were assigned to clean up efforts, like plowing and sanding school properties for days.
Hartford Public Schools (HPS) landscape mechanic Hooper was accused of taking some of that city time and a truck on a detour to Simsbury, roughly fifteen miles from work back on March 16, 2017.
NBC Connecticut requested the case file from HPS on March 23, 2017. On Monday, August 8, Hartford’s central office provided 60 pages of documentation to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters. One letter was Hooper’s termination notice, dated on June 20, citing "egregious conduct."
"You used a Board of Education vehicle to plow a driveway on Stratton Brook Road in Simsbury, Connecticut during a snowstorm. This is against the reasonable work rules for the district," Assistant Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools Peter Dart wrote.
The investigation into Hooper started from an email titled "Use of City Equipment" to Hartford City Hall. The author asked NBC Connecticut to remain anonymous.
The email was dated March 16, 2017, and asked, “Is it proper for a Hartford public schools plow truck #12 with salt dispenser #2 plow a private road in West Simsbury today about 9:45 am?"
The author of the email told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, "I understand it is not the first time he had done that. I did what I thought was my responsibility as a tax payer and a retired Hartford Public Schools teacher."
One day after the plowing incident in question, on March 17, 2017, district officials placed Hooper on paid leave. He continued to receive his $51,771 salary until termination on June 20, 2017.
The district also alleges Hooper was hostile toward a supervisor when confronted about the complaint. HPS school officials provided video of the exchange between Hooper and that district employee. There is no sound on the recording.
Assistant Superintendent Peter Dart added in Hooper’s termination letter, "…You acted aggressively and used profanities toward another district employee..."
Hooper had no comment at his home in Simsbury on Tuesday. In a statement to the Board of Education, Hooper denied accusations of using certain profanity and accused a supervisor of acting aggressively toward him.
In the same letter, Hooper noted he is normally assigned a different truck but didn't know which truck he was assigned that specific day.
Hooper told NBC Connecticut he had an attorney, but would not provide a name.
Hooper’s union representative did not respond to telephone calls or emails.
School District officials also claim Greg Hooper was insubordinate for failing to attend two hearings he was required to, while still getting paid by the city.
Hartford Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez released this statement to NBC Connecticut:
"The termination of Gregory Hooper is a confidential personnel matter. Our employees are held to a high standard of conduct and professionalism. In circumstances in which we must consider termination of an employee, we follow processes and procedures that ensure the right decision is made."