Jody Barr, an administrator at Eastern Connecticut State University, replaced Salvatore Luciano as Executive Director of AFSCME Council 4 on May 11, but he wasn’t the expected successor to lead one of Connecticut’s largest public-sector unions.
AFSCME Council 4's Director of Collective Bargaining and Organizing Kevin Murphy was expected to take the lead role, but an eligibility challenge and subsequent investigation found Murphy was not a “member in good standing” because he failed to pay his dues on time and was therefore barred from the union election.
The mistake left AFSCME Council 4 in a bind, trying to find a successor for Luciano with little more than a month before elections.
Kevin Murphy was nominated for the position of executive director on February 16, 2018, but his eligibility was challenged by rival Charles Della Rocco, president of AFSCME Local 749.
According to a March 29, 2018 report by AFSCME’s Elections and Nominations Committee, Murphy was late paying his dues for 6 months over the course of 2017.
Murphy chose to pay his dues quarterly, however the AFSCME local 818 constitution states that failure to pay dues by the 15th of the month for more than two months in a row results in suspension.
“Additionally, while Brother Murphy’s retroactive dues payments may have restored him to the status of a member in good standing, it did not return him to the status of a member in good standing for a year prior to the election,” the Elections Committee wrote. “Therefore, the Elections Committee finds that Brother Murphy is ineligible to run for the office of Executive Director at this time.”
The technicality cost Murphy a significant promotion and raise in the union.
Murphy earned $129,403 in 2017 for his work as director of collective bargaining and organizing. The executive director position pays $155,254 per year, according to AFSCME Council 4’s 2017 LM-2 filings.
However, Della Rocco’s eligibility was also challenged and the Elections Committee found that he too was ineligible to run for executive director.
The Elections and Nominations Committee’s report concluded “there are currently no candidates for the position of Executive Director” and had to schedule another meeting to nominate candidate for executive director.
Jody Barr was nominated for executive director on April 20, 2018, just twenty days before union members would vote, according to a May 11 report by the Elections Committee.
Barr had already accepted another term as president of AFSCME Council 4, but resigned in order to run for executive director as a last minute candidate.
Della Rocco was also nominated again after an AFSCME judicial panel in Washington D.C. dismissed the challenge against him.
Barr was able to mobilize a campaign quickly with mailers and won the election in a landslide, taking the top position in one of Connecticut’s most powerful unions which counts among its employees Connecticut’s Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.
Barr's election win meant a big raise from his previous job at ECSU where he earned $84,927 in salary in 2017. Barr worked for Connecticut's higher education system for 20 years and will be eligible to receive a pension upon retirement.
Murphy remains director of collective bargaining and organizing and Della Rocco remains President of Local 749.