MOUNT VERNON — A Mount Vernon city worker charged with threatening to shoot another employee had been having alcohol-related problems on the job.
Gregory Branstool, 59, Mount Vernon, was written up four times between Jan. 12, 2016 and March 20, 2017 for having an odor of alcohol on his breath at work. After the second occurrence, in October 2016, Branstool agreed to undergo alcohol counseling through Knox County Veteran’s Service Office, but the counseling was not monitored by city officials.
Branstool was a water/wastewater department worker hired by the city in 2008. Branstool’s personnel file and a copy of reports from an incident were obtained in a public records request by the News. The report shows a city employee who appeared to be wrestling with a drinking problem two years before allegedly threatening to shoot a co-worker in phone calls to other employees at the same job site Feb. 26.
The drinking issues were a concern because Branstool’s job included driving city trucks and operating equipment, City Safety-Service Director Joel Daniels said.
Daniels said he checked with the county VSO a few times to see if Branstool was going to his appointments, but stopped after a short while. Daniels said that the city can order an employee to undergo counseling on an approved plan, and the city can monitor the employee’s progress in such a case. However, since Branstool voluntarily checked into counseling, it was not felt a monitored plan was necessary, Daniels said.
Branstool was tested for alcohol on Feb. 17, 2017, and was found to have a BAC of .06. He was given a verbal warning.
On March 20, 2017, Branstool was again tested and had a BAC of .08. Branstool was suspended from work for 15 days.
Branstool’s problems with alcohol coincide with a poor 2016 work performance evaluation. Branstool received scores of four or lower in efficiency, competence, knowledge of work and responsibility. Branstool received a total score of 41; in his previous review, in 2013, Branstool received a total score of 81.
Branstool tended to get high scores for cooperation, and was noted to get along well with fellow employees.
However, when Branstool made the alleged threat Feb. 26, employees were concerned enough to take it seriously, according to Mount Vernon police records obtained from the city law director’s office.
The police reports indicate Branstool had left work early Feb. 26. Around noon, he called his supervisor and said he was at home loading guns and intended to “come out to the shop” and named a co-worker he was going to shoot. The supervisor told police Branstool said “I am not kidding” and asked where the co-worker was.
Before calling his supervisor, Branstool also called another co-worker. The co-worker, in his statement to police, said Branstool told him he was drinking and “loading his AK-47 in order to shoot (the co-worker) at the job site but that he had changed his mind.”
The superintendent contacted Daniels, who contacted police.
Police went to Branstool’s residence where he appeared to be intoxicated, and said he made the phone calls because he didn’t like the way the co-worker was treating him. Branstool voluntarily surrendered 12 firearms to police, including handguns and long arms.
Branstool’s personnel file includes records of two run-ins with law enforcement that did not occur while he was at work. One of the reports concerns Branstool going over to a neighbor’s with a handgun in March 2009. Branstool pointed the gun at the neighbor’s head and yelled at him to turn down his music, according to MVPD reports.
The supervisor mentions the 2009 incident in his statement to police: “I feel that he should be taken seriously because he has threatened with a handgun in the past.”
Daniels said that there are some felony charges that can result in immediate discipline, even if they are not committed on the job. Misdemeanor charges were filed against Branstool in the 2009 incident, and the city “probably” could not have pursued discipline in the matter, Daniels said.
Branstool was suspended immediately after he allegedly made the Feb. 26 threats. Branstool resigned from the city the next day.
In 2011, Branstool was one of three water/wastewater employees disciplined for an incident described by then-safety-service director Dave Glass that “landed in between” horseplay and fighting. Branstool suffered a broken finger in the incident.
In an e-mail to the News, Branstool’s son, Zachary Branstool, suggested that his father was being bullied on the job. Zachary Branstool declined further comment on the issue.
Gregory Branstool did not return a call to his cellphone from the News.
Daniels said that he did not think Gregory Branstool was being bullied.
“I wouldn’t call it bullying but being direct with him,” Daniels said. “His work performance was poor and there was frustration at times with him.”
Gregory Branstool has been charged with inducing panic and aggravated menacing, both first-degree misdemeanors. The case is scheduled for jury trial May 17.