City workers challenge their boss in Colton

10:00 PM PST on Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Press-Enterprise

With complaints that include favoritism, nepotism and an abuse of power, workers in the Colton Public Works Department have signed a petition asking for an investigation of supervisor John Roque.

The letter was signed by 21 of the 25 employees in the streets and parks divisions that Roque oversees and circulated last week to his supervisor, City Manager Daryl Parrish and the City Council.

Parrish said Thursday that he had received a copy of a letter signed by numerous employees in the Public Works Department stating that they have issues with and concerns about Roque.

"Understanding that there are always two sides to a story and all employees have rights, I have spoken to our interim public works director and have asked our human resources director to look into the matter," Parrish said.

Calls and messages left on Roque's cell phone seeking comment were not returned.

Lupe Celaya has worked for the Colton street department three years and said he has seen Roque verbally abuse employees.

Celaya said the final straw was an alleged incident in which Roque took city workers and a weekend laborer to one of his rental properties in town to paint over graffiti.

"We want him removed from his position. If it means termination, so be it," Celaya said. "If it means moving him to another department, fine. Morale is down, production is down...it's not a good thing."

Celaya said the employees got together Dec. 1 and began to write the petition. Many said they did not feel comfortable going to work because of fears of retaliation, Celaya said.

Their immediate concern was a previous request the workers had made of Roque's supervisor, Maritza Tapia, regarding Roque's alleged abuse of power. Celaya said the complaint was "swept under the rug."

A number of the employees will meet today with their union representative at the San Bernardino Public Employees Association. They said they hope to address the issue at the next City Council meeting Dec. 16.

Reach Cindy Martinez Rhodes at 909-806-3054 or crhodes@PE.com

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