By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
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"It was '96, maybe late '95, when we got together," says Rama Mallett, human-resources director for the Department of Public Works. "We had a couple sixteen-hour sessions with professional trainers, and we talked about dispute resolution. There is a video series on violence-in-the-workplace issues, and Career Services bought some of those tapes and gave some out to each of the agencies. They also developed an eight-hour training session."
Mallett attended the lengthy training sessions, along with members of her staff and Manager of Public Works Bruce Baumgartner. But it was decided that the department couldn't afford to provide a full-day class for each of its 1,300 employees. "We condensed it into a two-hour training, with extra training for supervisors on how to manage violent situations and what their responsibilities are," Mallett says.
Employees were to be given booklets that included step-by-step instructions on how to report threats or violence, as well as phone numbers of persons to call if they believed that they or a fellow employee might need counseling. Lists of early warning signs were prepared. And workers were scheduled to sit through a 25-minute videotape that hammers home the importance of early intervention. The star of that tape, now required viewing for Public Works employees, is Oklahoma prison inmate William Cartwright, who is presently serving a life term for killing his boss and then slashing the throat of his boss's wife with a hunting knife the couple had given him for Christmas.
Mallett and her staff began training Public Works employees in the fall of 1996. By late December they'd worked their way to Wastewater Management.
"As I understand it," Mallett says, "we were just finishing up the training when it happened."
Richard Brady was 29 when he started working for the city. From the beginning, he was seen as devoted and hardworking. "Richard had to be pretty sick to miss work," DeFiore says. "Richard came to work every day. If he called in sick, you knew he was probably dying. And he was never late. Never."
Brady's dedication to his city post was particularly praiseworthy given that it wasn't his only job. "He worked three jobs to support his family," DeFiore says. "He was a janitor in the schools for a long time, I think maybe ten years. He'd get off at 3:30 p.m. and then go off to his other job.
"He wanted the nicer things in life for himself and his family," DeFiore continues. "He bought a house. A beautiful house."
Brady's job was to run a high-powered jet that cleaned out sanitary sewers. His specialty was working the lines that run through people's backyards. Each morning a supervisor produced a route for Brady to follow, and he and a utility worker would head out on a truck mounted with 1,000 feet of hose. Brady would run the hose down a manhole, attach to it a specialized jet (the largest, known as "the big bomb," sprays out water at a force greater than a firehose) and let rip.
Brady took a great deal of pride in his work, DeFiore says, but he was set in the way he did it, sometimes to the point of bullheadedness. "If you left Richard alone to do his job, he did it," DeFiore says. "I don't think he was truly hepped up on authority, because he felt he didn't need it. Maybe he didn't need it.
"He ran this equipment for a lot of years, and I'm not the type who'd try to tell him how to set the truck up. If I had an idea, Richard would listen, but maybe if I left, he'd do it his own way. He had a definite idea about the way the job should be done."
Brady, DeFiore and another Wastewater worker named Vic Padilla started their jobs at roughly the same time and remained friendly, if not always close. Padilla quickly got on the fast track, working his way up through the agency. He's now deputy manager for operations at Public Works, one of the department's top posts. DeFiore's rise was more modest, though he was made a supervisor nine years ago. Brady, however, never rose above the level of equipment operator specialist.
About five years ago, when an opening came up for an operations supervisor, Brady decided to go for it. "He didn't pass the test," DeFiore recalls. "And Richard, he's not dumb. But he said he had a problem with tests. And he studied."
When he learned he wasn't on the promotions list, Brady resigned himself to sticking with the same job he'd held for decades. "He got a good wage, and he didn't have many bills," DeFiore says. "I believe he was happy with that."
If Brady wasn't happy with his job, he was at least content to stay with it. He would have been eligible for retirement this year, and some of his co-workers thought he would take advantage of the opportunity. But DeFiore says Brady wanted to stay on until he turned 62 so he could get a bigger pension while also drawing Social Security. "I think he wanted to pay off his RV."