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Already fired twice, Tollway boss ousted again for allegedly sleeping on the job

Joseph Caffarello was making $78444 year when he was fired as maintenance supervisor for an Illinois Tollway garage.

Joseph Caffarello, was making $78,444 a year when he was fired as a maintenance supervisor for an Illinois Tollway garage.

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Updated: May 1, 2013 2:56PM

A $78,444-a-year Illinois Tollway garage supervisor who was fired twice by the state agency — only to win his job back both times — has been fired yet again after he was photographed seemingly sleeping at work.

Joseph Caffarello, 29, was terminated for not only snoozing on the job, but also for being “intimidating, threatening, abusive, condescending and loud’’ to the people he supervised, according to an audit released Thursday by the Tollway’s inspector general.

For his part, Caffarello told the Chicago Sun-Times he “absolutely’’ was “screwed’’ by the same Illinois Tollway that he says promoted him twice.

Reached Thursday evening, as he was about to enjoy a dinner of orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe cooked by his mom, Caffarello said two attorneys are helping him appeal his February 2013 termination.

He referred all questions to his legal team, which could not be reached Thursday evening. But Caffarello, married with a newborn, did take a moment to compliment his mother and her cooking. Said Caffarello: “She’s the best.’’

The person who brought officials a critical piece of evidence — photos of Caffarello apparently asleep at work — says she hopes this time the termination will stick.

“Let’s hope he stays fired,’’ said State Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan).

“Something needed to be done and I’m hoping it was addressed so it doesn’t happen again. . . .

“How do you appeal the fact that you’re asleep?’’

Mayfield said Caffarello’s underlings at the Tollway’s Gurnee garage used a cellphone to take two photographs of their boss asleep in his office and were laughing while they did so. She said a source then gave the photos to her.

“If you have a group of individuals standing outside your office door taking pictures and cracking up about it, you’re sleeping very good,’’ Mayfield said.

In a March 2012 letter to the Tollway and other state officials, Mayfield wrote that she was “appalled that my taxpayer dollars’’ were being “wasted” on a supervisor “asleep at his desk while on company time.’’

“The state of Illinois is broke,’’ Mayfield wrote. “Obviously there is a lot of waste within the Illinois Toll Authority if members of management are allowed to sleep during regular working hours and employees can mill about taking pictures of them.’’

Mayfield said her source told her Caffarello often slept at work, but this time co-workers “decided to take the pictures because they were just joking.’’

Even before that incident, Mayfield said, she had received two other complaints that Caffarello had discriminated against older employees at the Gurnee garage.

Mayfield on Thursday questioned why officials took 11 months to fire someone photographed apparently asleep on the job.

“Either you were sleeping or you weren’t,’’ said Mayfield. “In the private sector, he would probably be fired within a week.’’

Tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said Caffarello was suspended for two days without pay last April 2 — about a week after the agency initiated its investigation of the snoozing Caffarello.

However, he then returned to work while the agency investigated “more serious complaints,’’ Abrams said.

That included “unsafe and discriminatory’’ assignments to older employees and supervising workers in an “intimidating” and “abusive” manner, according to the audit by Tollway Inspector General James Wagner.

Caffarello was suspended, based on all those charges, on Nov. 27, 2012, and terminated this past February.

Caffarello started working with the Tollway Authority “as a young man,’’ in 2000, said Abrams.

His first termination occurred in 2001, Wagner said, after Caffarello was accused of head-butting a fellow toll collector and arguing with him. However, Caffarello won a grievance of the case and was reinstated in 2002.

Then, in 2004, he was fired a second time for producing a positive drug test after an accident with a Tollway vehicle, Wagner’s audit indicated. But based on an arbitrator’s ruling, Caffarello was rehired again in 2005, Wagner said.

Despite Cafferello’s winning batting average at regaining his job, Abrams was optimistic Thursday that the latest termination would not disintegrate.

“We are confident that he will not return to work at the Tollway,’’ Abrams said. “This kind of misconduct will not be tolerated.’’

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