The Hypocracy of Civic Employment

Frank & Susan Cervone

Hello All.  We haven’t gotten together for a few months.  I admit, it is my fault.  I am guilty, but I do have a reason.  Not an excuse.  Unfortunately, with MSA, it takes a toll on everyone and that is exactly what happened.  I know my posts had started to get sporadic before that, but life in the Cervone Casa was starting to crumble.

Having MSA is to be politically correct, “challenging”.  In reality, it sucks.  It sucks the life right out of you and everyone involved.  It is still ravishing through my body taking out one function at a time.  It seems to take great pleasure in coming up with new and exciting ways to devastate me.  The newest is neck spasms or constrictions.  Spasms so strong they are visible across the room.  I look like a bullfrog.  Depending on what muscles in the neck are affected, a whole new set of symptoms.  For instance, Angelina and I were taking a short walk through our neighborhood.  I had felt weak, and my tongue felt like it was swollen, but I thought if I were to get out and get some air, it would pass.  I was wrong.  The muscles that decided to constrict were the muscles that surround my carotid arteries.  So, every time they would constrict tightly, it would impair the blood flow to my brain, causing TIA’s, or what is commonly known as mini strokes.

The second time it happened with a vengeance, it involved the muscles in the front of my throat, constricting enough to close my airway.  Within seconds I was gasping for air and gurgling on the saliva that was building up until I lost consciousness.  We had a plumber and his helper here at the time and they said a quick prayer, dropped off their business card, and according to Susan, gave her their condolences as they left.  She could hear them saying, “He’s gone” as they walked out the door.  Not only did we get a visit from the emergency squad, we got a fire truck and a police department supervisor.

So in addition to dropping blood pressure, falling, choking, the doctor saying I’m just going to fall asleep one night and never wake up, I now have a new set of symptoms, neck spasms/constrictions.

Susan has been my rock.  She continued to work her job at the City.  I know most people think it’s an “easy government” job, but let me tell you, hers was one of the most stressful positions in the city other than emergency services.  She spent the better part of her day answering the telephone to find someone on the other end of the line screaming about a bill or a water turn-off.  The office is a very busy office with customers coming in to pay their bills or complain with obscene language and threats.  There are multiple distractions and it is very fast paced.  Since she had been there for so many years, the customers, especially the property owners asked for her to handle problems they were having with non-paying tenants, delinquent bills, move outs and tenant references.  Additionally, she was doing all the billing.

I found out after my term was over on City Council that some of my best days had been her worst nightmares.  Her life had been threatened, she had been repeatedly cursed at and there had been issues with Supervisors.  Issues that arose due to actions I had made while on Council.  Although I knew her job was hard, I had no idea what had been taking place for the past five or so years because she had been forbidden to tell my by city management with the punishment ultimately being the loss of her job.

Frank Cervone State House

Frank Cervone Serving His Country

So, not only had she been juggling her workday, jumping through hoops for management, suffering abuse from both customers and management, she was taking care of me through all of this.  She would go to work all day and then spend most of the night waking every few minutes to make sure I would survive the night.

People kept telling her to make sure she took care of herself.  She thought she was invincible.  Then the trouble started.  Not sleeping, crying at the drop of the hat, nausea and vomiting and then the hives.  We had seen similar symptoms (except for the hives) from her just before Christmas, but thought she was just worn down, and would bounce back after some time off work.  She had gotten to the point she had to take a Xanax an hour before lunch just to keep the food down.  And when that didn’t work, and her work started suffering, she was asked by her supervisors if she could take “more medications.”

After several of us that care about her urged her to see the doctor, he said she was crashing.  He sent her to a psychiatrist to see if he could help her cope with everything life had dealt her.  After many appointments with both doctors, they determined that, although I am the most important thing in her life and my dying is devastating to her, her job was causing the stress and ultimately all her physical symptoms and they told her that she needed to apply to go out on a disability or it the job would kill her.  Now understand, she doesn’t pay into Social Security, she pays into a State Retirement Plan and under their disability policies, she could work until they made a decision on her application.

On the day she turned in the disability paperwork to the City, they decided they would send her to a physician of their choosing to see if she was “fit for duty”.  After a four hour examination on June 7, their physician determined that she was not, at this time, able to function in her described job description.  The City told her that June 22 would be the last day they were going to let her work, and would have her re-evaluated in sixty days.

She was devastated.  She felt like a failure.  She felt she had let her family down.  She was worried about our finances because she didn’t have a lot of paid time off available.

She told them how it made her feel.  How if she was off it would be without pay and that would be more stressful than staying at work.  It fell on deaf ears.

She walked out of the building on June 22, by herself, her immediate supervisor, who she thought was her friend, left early so she didn’t have to make that last walk with her, without so much as a good-bye, and since no one else knew what was happening, Susan did what she does best.  She put on her best smile, finished the day, walked out with  co-workers and told everyone to have a great weekend.  She cried non-stop for four days.

Eventually the State of Ohio sent her to one of their physicians for evaluation.  After talking with her, he uncovered the fact that she lived through an abusive childhood and had buried those feelings many, many years ago.  He said that the abuse the City was now piling upon her had brought back all those horrible memories and was now causing all her physical symptoms.  He told her in his office that she was suffering from mental abuse from the City. And it was affecting her, making her go back to reliving being the helpless little girl with no one she could tell.  The City knew she desperately needed to keep her job because in her mind, if she lost her job, she would lose our insurance and I would suffer.  Her superiors knew this was her biggest fear, so they played on it.

Unbeknownst to me, every single time I made a comment or when voted against something they wanted as I served on Council, Susan was called into the office for “something”.  Once I challenged a pay raise for one of the employees since all the other employees were under a pay freeze.  The HR representative was presenting the request to Council.  She had become disrespectful, and I inquired if she had finished the courses that we had required she complete to stay in her job.  I knew about these courses since I was on the Council that determined that she be given the job based on that criteria.

The very next day, Susan was called into the supervisor’s office and asked if she had been discussing the HR job description with me.  She answered no, she didn’t even know the job description since the position had been filled before she started work with the City.  She was again warned if she had any conversation with me concerning anything that happened within the City, she would be terminated.  Termination = No Insurance = My death.  She was not even allowed to come home after work and share her day with me.

This went on so often that it eventually took a permanent toll on her health.  Her lack of being able to keep food down caused severe dehydration and has permanently damaged her kidneys.  She cannot even go into the city limits without causing a small panic attack.  The few times she has had to go to the city offices it has caused her to cry all the way there, and I have watched her vomit from the stress.

Even as we were waiting for the State’s decision, the City sent her back to their physician.  He determined that he had seen no change in her emotional ability to return to her duties.  The City then sent a letter asking her to obtain a letter from her therapist (they specifically named the doctor), requesting an opinion of Susan’s present condition.  The letter stated it was so they could determine if they would still keep her as an employee or terminate her; knowing that if the State ruled in her favor, they would have to hold a position for her for five years.  Susan’s therapist sent a letter immediately stating she had read the City’s physician’s report and agreed with his findings.  The City then contacted Susan again and said what they really wanted was a letter from her family physician.

Even though the City took her out of work on June 22, and they knew she was seeking disability, they continued to harass her by making her attend weekly therapy visits (at a cost out of our pocket), and requesting one thing, then telling her they wanted something else, etc.

So let’s recap.  In addition to the mental abuse to her for the past five years or so under the direction of the current City Manager; the City has taken her out of work (knowing she had no paid time available to be off); scheduled doctor’s appointments in Columbus for which they didn’t pay her time or expenses; requested documents which were not part of the State process; and sent her letters telling her if she didn’t comply, they would terminate her.  We are now waiting for them to send the final document to the State so her disability checks can start.  As of today, there is a one page form that the City needs to submit which states the last day she worked, and they haven’t sent it.  It just shows that whatever they can do to harass, they will do.  Of course I’m sure they don’t see it that way.  They kept saying that they were “doing everything we can to see that she gets better.“  They did allow her to keep her medical insurance, at a cost of more than $290 a month, but not having her income has been devastating.  I have worked very hard to make sure she would be taken care of after my death, but they are doing their best to bankrupt us.  What they can’t do it take our strength, our love, and our commitment.

The years that I spent on City Council helping citizens and making sure their voices were heard was some of the best years of my life.  It gave me such joy being able to give back to the community.  But I must say, if I had had any idea that Susan would have be subjected to the abuse she suffered, I would have never, ever have sought that position.  The cost has been too high.

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3 Responses to The Hypocracy of Civic Employment

  1. Jess on October 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Love you guys!!

  2. Patty Whitehead on October 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Frank,
    I think of you all, often. I am so sorry Susan had to go through all that mess. It makes me angry! Just remember Susan, God loves you and so do so many others. You are a wonderful sweet lady.
    I love your smile! Take care and hope to see you on Sunday.

  3. kay and Bob Strank on November 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Frank and Susan,
    It makes me ashamed to admit to being a member of the Fairborn community. It sounds very much like the abuse I suffered from my last employer. The toll it takes on your self esteem alone is devestating. I’m so sorry that someone as sweet as you has had to suffer such pain. You are a real warrior. It is amazing how you have held up under Franks ollness. god will Bless you and keep you under his mighty wing. Prayers for both of you daily

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