The National Labor Relations Board has agreed to investigate complaints the Western Connecticut Health Network intimidated and coerced nursing assistants and other employees before an unsuccessful unionization vote in June.

If the complaints are substantiated, the election result could be set aside, NLRD spokesperson Jessica Kahanek said.

The June 19 vote by about 800 non-professional workers at the network’s Danbury and New Milford hospitals was decided by a narrow margin, said Matt O’Connor, spokesman for AFT-Connecticut.

The final tally was not released.

The union represents about 725 nurses and 250 technicians at the two hospitals.

In weeks leading up to the vote, the network employed a consulting firm whose representatives took part in mandatory staff meetings the hospitals’ administrators said had been intended to foster an “open dialogue.”

However, union organizers said the effect was tantamount to “harassment, coercion and intimidation.”

Days before the vote it was learned the firm’s chief operating officer, Martin Dreiss, had served 33 months in federal prison on security fraud charges dating to 1999, according to federal documents from the U.S. District Court of New York.

He was also ordered to make restitution payments of $1.5 million, documents show.

The network promptly terminated the consulting firm, National Labor Consultants, stating the background of its representatives had been “contrary to our organizational values.”

Hospital officials declined Monday to comment on the NLRB investigation.

"As part of our policy, Western Connecticut Health Network does not comment on ongoing litigation," said Andrea Rynn, director of public and government relations.

Union organizers, meanwhile, offered additional details about the complaints against the consultants.

“They were given free rein of the hospital,” said Mary Consoli, president of the Danbury Nurses Union. “They would stand outside of patients’ rooms waiting for the aides to come out to talk to them.”

“It violated HPPA regulations, “ she added. “They could hear everything being said in the patient’s room, and it could be intimidating for the aides. There were a lot of one-on-one meetings with workers.”

The complaints were to be heard Wednesday, July 22, by an NLRB hearing officer.

NLRB spokesperson Kahanek declined to discuss specifics of the case, except to cite the rules on conduct of union elections: “Results of an election will be set aside if conduct by the employer or the union created an atmosphere of confusion or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees’ freedom of choice.”

stuz@newstimes.com; 203-731-3352