"I picked up the phone and Renee said, 'Are you feeling good about yourself?' " Gonzalez said. "I didn't know what she was talking about. I said 'No.' Then she asked me again, 'Are you feeling good about yourself?' And I said, 'I guess I am, but why -.' Then she said, 'Good, you're fired. Call Emilio and let him find you a job.' "
The dispute apparently revolved around the race in City Council's Seventh District, where incumbent Maria Quiñones-Sánchez was seeking re-election against former Councilman Dan Savage. Renee Tartaglione and her husband, former 19th Ward Democratic leader Carlos Matos, were supporting Sanchez.
Gonzalez said that she was careful not to do any outright politicking, but that she liked Savage and had worked for him during his brief tenure as a Council member in 2007. She acknowledges that when the subject came up, "I said I'm going to vote for the better person, and I don't think Maria is the better person."
That put Gonzalez, who worked in Marge Tartaglione's office as a $36,400-a-year principal assistant, on a collision course with Renee Tartaglione.
Several weeks before the primary, Gonzalez said, Renee Tartaglione told her that the 19th Ward was supporting Sanchez. "She said Maria had promised us certain things, we all had to stick together and support Maria," Gonzalez said.
Just before the election, Gonzalez said, she got a call from a friend who said she had two friends from Puerto Rico who were looking for jobs on election day. "The only person I knew who was looking for people was Emilio" Vazquez, another ward leader who was backing Savage in the Council race. "I told her she should call him."
A call to Renee Tartaglione was returned by Geoffrey Johnson, an attorney with the law firm Sprague & Sprague, who said he was representing her. Both Renee Tartaglione and her mother declined requests for interviews, Johnson said, and Renee Tartaglione had no comment on her exchange with Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 60, worked as what is known as an at-will employee of the commissioners' office, a patronage worker without civil service status who could be fired at the will of her boss.
She said she immediately packed up her belongings after getting the phone call from Renee Tartaglione. "I don't want to be where I'm not wanted," she said. But she later filed a complaint with the Board of Ethics about Renee Tartaglione's continued involvement with the commissioner's office.
The commissioners' in-house lawyer, Fred Voigt, said that whatever happened to Gonzalez was a personnel matter that the agency would not discuss publicly.
Asked about Renee Tartaglione's role in the matter, Voigt said, "Renee speaks for her mother sometimes . . . she is not independent of her mother."
The commissioners' human resources director, Linda Holmes Nelson, told The Inquirer that she had processed Gonzalez's dismissal after receiving a telephone call directly from Marge Tartaglione.
"Renee is no longer an employee," Nelson said. "If she was involved in it in any way, from my perspective I have no knowledge of it."
Contact staff writer Bob Warner at 215-854-2611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.