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In lawsuit over promised union jobs/careers, FCR CEO Gilmartin also proves slippery in deposition

Several people reading my coverage of the lawsuit filed against Forest City Ratner and its community partner Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) commented that developer Bruce Ratner seemed particularly adept at not saying much.

For example, Ratner was asked, in his deposition, if he had “discussions with your staff” about BUILD CEO James Caldwell’s promises of union jobs and careers to those in the pre-apprenticeship training program, or PATP. (Some 20 of the 36 trainees are plaintiffs, seeking compensation for the careers they didn't get and the work they say they did during training.)

“I have had them subsequent,” he answered. “I don’t remember that period of time that I did. I don’t remember that I did. Or didn’t, frankly. But I don’t know.”

What about Ratner's successor?

Though I didn't focus on the testimony of his successor as CEO, MaryAnne Gilmartin, she too proved somewhat slippery, at least at one key point in her deposition.

The excerpt from her deposition is brief--full depositions are not available--but it concentrates on whether and how the trainees were told the PATP would not lead to a union apprenticeship, as Caldwell promised (and some documents suggest), but instead to another, already-established PATP.

(As I wrote, that would mean that BUILD's program more accurately should have been called a pre-pre-apprenticeship training program.)
Q. And was that path, when I talk about path, I'm talking about through the three programs that you mentioned, Construction Skills 2000, Helmets to Hardhats and NEW, was that path to possible -- to hopeful union membership, was that communicated to BUILD?
A. I believe so.
Q. And how was it communicated to BUILD?
A. I'm thinking meetings and correspondence, both. Conversations. 
It's unclear from the deposition what time frame is being referenced.

Note that, in contrast with Gilmartin's recollection, one of her deputies, Jane Marshall, wrote to one of her deputies, Sonya Covington, on 10/5/10, well after the PATP had begun, "Where is it explicitly stated either in emails or other documents that they HAD to go through union programs? We need documentation in ADDITION to plain fact because these people are snakes.”

“Always been discussion,” Covington responded. Marshall asked her to send documentation to Gilmartin because “with this group, and any CBA group, documentation is the key.”

More from Gilmartin

The plaintiffs' attorneys tried to get some clarity from Gilmartin.
Q. Did you ever get -- first of all, when you're talking about documenting the work that we have accomplished this past year, are you talking about the work to get to the path of those three programs, is that what you're referring to?
A. I think so.
Q. And when you sent this -- when you forwarded it to Sonya [Covington], was Sonya ever able to provide you with documentation or papering that you were saying --
A. Look, we all knew that we made it clear --
Q. -- didn't exist?
A. Over and over and over again in meetings and conversations and even written word. But it's just one of these hypercommunication things that I always felt like for good measure, just say it over and over again. You know, tattoo it on your own forehead, if you have to. It's just one of those things where it probably can't be said enough, because of this issue of communication or lack of a sort of appreciation or sophistication where we're on a path, we're on a path, we're on a path, everybody's on the boat, and you find out that --
Q. And again, you're referring --
MR. WEINBERGER [defense attorney]: Did you finish?
Q. Did you finish? Go ahead.
A. I just want to say that -- yeah, I'm finished.
Q. And the path that you're talking about, again, just to clarify the path that you said over and over again was the path that was going to go through these three programs? That was made clear to them over and over again?
A. Well, from the point that we created that path. Because the getting to the path we've sat here and picked apart for the last few hours that we were on a road to getting to a path. And got on that path.
Q. That was sometime in May when Bob Sanna was able to get the 200 slots?
A. That was a definitive milestone in that, yes.
Gilmartin was asked when it was made clear to BUILD that the PATP would not lead to union apprenticeships. But her response--"That was a definitive milestone in that, yes"--leaves some wiggle room.

The court record, as I wrote, is convoluted, but it's odd that, if Forest City were truly certain this would not lead to apprenticeships, the company chose to fund not just merely "life skills" training but also construction skills. Could it be that they were "humoring" BUILD to keep the non-profit's public posture of support?

Looking for evidence?

The questioning continued:
Q. Okay.
A. And this is October.
Q. Okay. All right. Do you know if Sonya was ever able to come up with evidence that you were indicating that you couldn't -- you were asking can we produce --
A. Let me make it clear, my statements were not intended to produce evidence, because I knew what we were doing. We were all there. So it wasn’t like, this was almost like rhetorical, you see. I wasn't looking for somebody to show me a piece of paper because we were living it. It wasn't that kind of a thing. It was more here we are, in October, and there is a bit of amnesia going on.
Q. Tell me about amnesia. Is this amnesia from Mr. Caldwell?
A. Yes.
Q. And what was it that he said in this email that was amnesia?
A. That there would be no construction jobs for the BUILD training students upon completion of the program.
Q. And so that was, why was that amnesia?
A. Do I have to tell you? I mean, we just got through saying what was supposed to happen. It was another important step to getting there. And I also think I pointed out the hyper-concern about creating expectations that nobody's ever guaranteed a job anyway. This is about opportunity. So getting the opportunity to get the job. That’s the point.
Q. Okay.
A. So this so misses the point, that it's frustrating.
Q. Do you have any reason to believe that he is not being truthful in what he's writing to you, that he believes something else but is saying this?
A. I don't think he's a detail man on these things. I think for him it was really not about how you get there. He just wanted to be successful in delivering for the people he promised things to. And I think that it's really just about the shortcuts that he would take generally in thinking, in processing information, than in execution. Some people just don't focus on details.
(Emphasis added)

She wasn't looking for a piece of paper, but Marshall sure was.


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