LOWELL - The city is investigating who at the Lowell Regional Water Utility allegedly used a city communications device to send disparaging text messages to the mother of new Water Utility Executive Director Erik Gitschier prior to her son's hiring.
JoAnn Gitschier, the recipient of the texts, is the former longtime office manager of the Utility.
She informed the city's Law Department last week about the text messages that were sent to her personal cell phone prior to Kevin Murphy announcing the hiring of her son on Friday afternoon.
The first text to JoAnn Gitschier was sent early last week. It allegedly said: "We don't want your rat son here! Steve and the boys are doing their best to (expletive) him ... it will be a long road!"
JoAnn Gitschier believes that the "Steve" referenced is Steve Duchesne, the Utility's operation/safety superintendent. He did not respond to a request for comment.
A second text was sent Friday morning before Murphy announced who he was selecting as the new director. That text said: "Eric is out! Tony is in! Thank god! couldn't take another Gitschier!"
Murphy chose Erik Gitschier over Tony Capachietti, the Utility's distribution superintendent.
JoAnn Gitschier, who retired from the city more than two years ago and lives in Florida, said she was furious when she received the texts.
She said she knew the texts were coming from a city communications device because the number was the same one when she had use of the device as an employee.
"I just think it is terrible they can use the city equipment to bother somebody on their retirement about their kid," Gitschier told The Sun. "I also want to know how they got my private cell phone number."
JoAnn Gitschier said she told City Solicitor Christine O'Connor that if she received any more similar texts, she would hire a lawyer and sue the city for harassment.
Murphy recently told The Sun that he had seen the text messages and dispatched Assistant City Manager Mike McGovern to the Water Utility to get a hold of the device they were sent from and find out who sent them.
"It impressed upon me all the more need for an outsider to take over," Murphy said of the texts and his decision to hire Gitschier to replace Daniel Lahiff.
Murphy also said all options were on the table when it comes to discipline. McGovern did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.
Capachietti said the phone was not found. He also said he was disgusted by the behavior being reported.
"I am truly saddened that there is the possibility of an employee here that would act in that manner," Capachietti said. Erik Gitschier declined to comment.
JoAnn Gitschier said disparaging text messages were also sent from the city communications device to current Utility employees, an assertion another source confirmed. She did not identify who those employees were. Chief Procurement Officer Michael Vaughn did not respond to a request about who is assigned the communications device in question.
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