It is fair to say Governor Phil Scott often makes the point that state government should be managed like a business. So it’s hardly surprising Scott announced that FairPoint Communication executive Beth Fastiggi will be his Department of Human Resources Commissioner. Fastiggi held a number of posts at FairPoint Communications in her 30-year career there.
I wonder though — considering some of FairPont’s history in Vermont — Scott might have been tempted to make this announcement on a Friday — late in the day Friday.
FairPoint, which took over Verizon’s land line business in Vermont, has reached out and touched most Vermonters over the years — and not in a good way. Here, and for that matter in all of New England, the company has a long history of poor quality service, bankruptcy, and troubled labor relations. At certain key moments it seems Vermont has been there with helping hand$.
In recent years a variety hefty fines for consistently poor quality of service were imposed by the State of Vermont Public Service on FairPoint. And then, the VPSB waived millions of dollars in accumulated poor service related penalties for the company. The agreement, part of a restructuring plan, allowed $7 million in assessed unpaid penalties to be redirected by FairPoint for statewide broadband build-out.
The relationship between FairPoint and its union employees has been marked by mistrust. For 131 days from October 2014 to February 2015 almost 2,000 FairPoint union employees were on strike over newly imposed rounds of wage and benefit cuts.
Shortly after the strike began, and despite ongoing issues surrounding quality of service, Vermont awarded FairPoint a lucrative contract to manage Vermont’s 911 emergency communications service. Who ever would have guessed that outages and problems would now be plaguing the emergency 911 system?
In the DHS appointment press release Governor Scott says: “Beth is a highly respected business leader who will be a great asset and public servant for the state.”
So let’s see then, FairPoint Comunications squeezed concessions out of union members, provided poor service, got concessions on state-imposed fines and landed a valuable state 911 contract while in bankruptcy — in the middle of a labor strike .
So how does that management skill set connect to the Department of Human Resources Phil? Not too results oriented, eh?