- CEO has been accused of physical violence and disruptive behavior.
- There are questions and complaints about business practices.
- Former employees raise concerns about “work hard, play hard” company culture.
New York State is giving a $1.5 million state grant to a company whose CEO has been accused of violent behavior, fostering a “work hard, play hard” workplace, engaging in questionable business practices and underpaying employees.
CGI is a privately-held company with a headquarters on East Main Street. Founded in 1987, it employs about 300 people. The company creates websites and promotional videos, and offers search engine optimization and social media management services. It counts as many of its clients municipalities and business associations.
Rochester for All contacted CGI by phone and email several days ago, but we have not received a response. If we receive any response or corrections, we will provide the information in this post.
Taxpayer Support and Political Ties
CGI is in the midst of expanding its downtown footprint. CEO Robert Bartosiewicz told the Democrat and Chronicle in February 2017, “We’re doing this all on our own dime.” Yet in December 2017, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council awarded CGI $1.5 million for the project.
CGI has enjoyed a number of grants and tax incentives over the years. The company received a $2.1 million loan from the City of Rochester under the Robert Duffy administration. CGI has also received assistance from COMIDA.
Bartosiewicz has connections to former mayor Duffy and current mayor Lovely Warren.
Duffy’s daughter worked for the company at one time. Duffy also appointed Bartosiewicz to the Greater Rochester Sports Authority. CGI sells video ads for Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, where Duffy is CEO. Duffy co-chairs FLREDC, which awarded the recent $1.5 million state grant to CGI.
Bartosiewicz donated a combined $8,000 to Warren’s campaign and political action committee individually and through his company. Warren held her 2017 State of the City Address at the CGI complex downtown. CGI sponsored the city’s Party in the Park concert series.
Complaints About Business Practices
CGI typically contracts with a municipality or business association to produce free online promotional videos. CGI gets revenue by selling sponsorships of the videos. CGI has hundreds of satisfied clients all over the country and is endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.
However, CGI Communications has a number of complaints regarding aggressive sales tactics, misrepresentation, overcharging and taking business away from local vendors.
A North Carolina mayor who believed local businesses didn’t realize their ad dollars were going to an out-of-state firm likened CGI’s services to a “city-authorized scam.”
Another North Carolina town rejected CGI’s offer, citing complaints on the Better Business Bureau website. The board of commissioners worried about price-gouging and a negative impact on local videographers.
The BBB website includes 29 reviews of CGI, of which 17 are complaints. In some cases, CGI provided full refunds. In other cases, CGI referred customers to contracts they signed.
In one case detailed on the BBB website, after a business said no to a sales pitch, a CGI employee gave the business a one-star rating on Google. CGI responded on the BBB website that it disciplined the employee and used the incident as a teachable moment. In another case, a customer accused CGI of writing fake positive reviews about his company, which CGI denied.
Local videographers have complained in several cities when deals are inked with CGI. CGI has been accused of underpaying subcontractors. A Connecticut marketing company claims CGI was charging small businesses far more than appropriate for the services rendered. CGI claims it offered lower-priced packages.
A Napa business owner claimed she paid CGI $2,000 for a video ad, but the company never produced anything. The woman later got a refund.
One business association claims CGI was soliciting customers under false pretenses.
A Florida business claimed a CGI salesman said he was with the mayor’s office and offered discounts if he could use their boat.
Allegations of Low Pay
Five women sued CGI in 2014 for not paying them overtime. The women said they had to write scripts in a “fill in the blank” and “Mad Libs” style for clients. They claim they earned annual salaries of $25,000 and were forced to work unpaid overtime. The women said sometimes they were allowed to leave work early “on the condition that they go to a bar with members of the management and/or executive team.” In court papers, CGI denied the allegations.
According to a court filing, CGI paid the women back wages for disputed hours, but admitted no wrongdoing. The parties agreed that the women may have worked hours without the company’s knowledge, and the women may have performed tasks exempt from overtime laws.
Read Lawsuit Alleging Unpaid Overtime
Violence and Disruptive Behavior
John Rand, who was Bartosiewicz’s executive assistant, filed a federal lawsuit against Bartosiewicz claiming the CEO assaulted him. In court papers, Rand said the incident happened in 2012 at a Super Bowl party in Indianapolis featuring celebrities and Playboy Playmates. Rand said he asked Bartosiewicz to step out of the frame for a group picture, and in response, the CEO kneed him in the right thigh. Rand claimed he suffered an injury that required a full knee replacement. In court papers, Bartosiewicz denied the allegations. Both sides agreed to end the case for undisclosed terms. When we reached him by phone, Rand said he’s not allowed to discuss the matter. Bartosiewicz’s insurance company sued him over the incident, saying their policy doesn’t cover liability associated with assault.
In 2011, Bartosiewicz was arrested for arguing with patrons at a downtown Rochester bar and refusing to leave. We don’t know how the case was adjudicated.
Around 2009, the co-owner of the now-closed Matthews East End Grill contacted police when Bartosiewicz and another man got into a fist fight. “They were rolling around on the floor,” said Carl Falk. Officers gave Bartosiewicz a warning, Falk said.
John Rand’s affidavit as part of federal lawsuit
Work Hard, Play Hard
CGI Communications brags of its “work hard, play hard” culture on Glassdoor.com and social media.
“The holiday parties would get kind of out of hand. (Bartosiewicz) would randomly walk up to you and kiss you and hug you,” said a woman who worked at CGI from 2013 to 2016. She saw women coworkers sit on his lap.
“At our Christmas party, I’m sitting by the bar. (The CEO) comes up to me and screams in my ear, ‘Are you having fun?’ and kissed me on the corner of my mouth,” said a woman who worked at CGI in 2011 when she was in her early 20s. Another time, the woman said she was in the elevator. “(Bartosiewicz) gets into the elevator and he puts his hands on my hips and walks me back into the elevator.”
A woman on Twitter posted, “if we sat on the CEO’s lap at the Christmas party we got a day off.”
Eight of the former CGI workers with whom we spoke didn’t want to be named. Some work in sales and worried about what clients would think. Some said their current bosses would disapprove. Some worried about upsetting former coworkers who still work at CGI. Many pointed out that Rochester can feel like a small town, and speaking against a powerful individual could impact their careers.
A man who worked at the company in 2015 said Bartosiewicz was giving a tour when he stopped to ask a woman employee for a kiss. The woman complied. “That was really creepy,” the man said.
The man said his department was invited to spend a Friday afternoon on Bartosiewicz’s yacht. Pictures and videos posted by CGI of these outings show women and men wearing swimsuits. The man said he saw some women sitting on Bartosiewicz’s lap during the outing.
“I liked being with my friends on a yacht drinking during the work week,” the man said.
A woman who worked at CGI in the mid 2000s said a vice-president “grinded” her while intoxicated at a bar. Later, she was invited on a company cruise in the Bahamas. She said spouses were not allowed on the trip. Bartosowiecz joined the group.
“It was a free-for-all of inappropriateness,” the woman said.
Nearly a year later, Bartosiewicz suddenly fired her. She said it happened in front of other people. “I’m letting you go. You’re out of here,” Bartosiewiecz allegedly said. The woman said she had never been told of any problems with her performance. She said another company executive tried to intervene, to no avail.
“It was highly unprofessional and distasteful, to just fire me in front of people in a hallway,” the woman said.
Another man said Bartosiewicz fired him in front of a group of trainees in late 2015. The man was giving a presentation and stumbled. When he said, “I forgot my place,” the man said Bartosiewicz yelled at him, “What the fuck did you just say?” The former worker said the CEO then threw a coffee mug at him and it smashed against wall. Bartosiewicz then fired him on the spot.
“You constantly felt that any day could be your last day,” the man said.
Rochester for All talked to someone who was in the meeting and verified Bartosiewicz’s behavior, except that he didn’t remember the CEO throwing the coffee mug.
Multiple former employees say Bartosiewicz often berated the staff, frequently using profanity.
“He has these Monday morning meetings where he screams at everyone…Some of the Monday mornings, I felt incredibly offended. There was a meeting that prompted someone to quit, she was so offended,” said the woman who worked at CGI from 2013 to 2016. She added, “There are a lot great people working there.”
“I went to bed every night shaking that I had to go back there the next day,” said a former employee.
Rochester for All calls on local and state governments to review their relationships with CGI Communications. The behavior of the CEO and concerns of former employees and customers should lead to some soul-searching among government officials. There is enough that is part of the public record that warrants concern.
Author: Rachel Barnhart
Follow-up: CGI: A Fake Review Factory?
34 thoughts on “Should CGI Get $1.5 Million from Taxpayers?”
I could write a book about Barto and CGI
Alton Baird says:
The book would hopefully be about building a company that employs hundreds of people, is helping invigorate Rochester’s downtown and provides valuable services to thousands of businesses and thousands of communities. Having known this company for well over 20 years and having experience with 100’s of clients in my business, I can verify that this company is far better than 95% of the companies in this country. The company has had multiple lucrative offers to move and has always remained a steadfast part of Rochester for 31 years.
Nicole Graff says:
I lasted 6 months there before I couldn’t stand it anymore. He’s a terrible person; a tyrant, really. He walks around like he’s Hugh Hefner and treats everyone, especially his current assistant, like dogs. I truly don’t know how people continue to work there. College educated young people are wasting their time cold-calling businesses, not making enough money to survive. I saw through that crap right away!!!
This is just another example of if you see it report it. ie: a group filed a lawsuit for back pay and overtime. Local Attorney(s). Did anyone contact the Dept of Labor? The District Attorney? The FBI? These state and federal agencies have their own “police departments.” Investigators who use their official capacity to weed out these allegations. I see many people here with complaints who kept their complaints at the local level. Go outside the normal and the punishment may see a turn for the victims, rather than another party for the assailant. These allegations are going outside State lines too.
I don’t understand how he’s still in business with the way he runs this place. Working there was the worst 2 years of my life (I was finishing my degree and felt stuck there). I wouldn’t go back there for any amount of money in the world.
I was there for 2 years, witnessed a lot of drug usage in the office, drinking in the office, managers and vice presidents hitting on and sleeping with subordinates, the CEO throwing pens at people saying “if I were your age I would crush you at sales”. There is outdated computers and technology but somehow they find the money to buy a pointless boat to party on. No room for career growth or advancement and the product itself generates very little repeat business. Constant threats of being fired and empty promises from management.
I went to Rochester City Schools as a young boy, eventually graduating from Brighton then getting a degree at Suny Brockport. So, I am as proud as anyone about the Rochester area. I looked all over the area for strong paying jobs after college, truth be told, there were none!The only reason I still live, and pay taxes in this community is because of my decade plus career at CGI. I never would have lived here if not for CGI. I now have a physicians level income and can attribute it mostly to the opportunity Bob and CGI have given me. I would also like to comment on the courage Bob had to bring and keep his company downtown. 11 years ago this area looked dreadful. Now, there is massive positive change. Lets encourage more of our companies to emulate CGI, rather than attacking them.
No one is obligated to support any company, regardless of the product they produce. More importantly, your comments deflect from the issues at hand. There are dozens of individuals who have experienced/witnessed similar abusive situations. There does not seem to be any reason to believe these individuals conspired to coordinate their stories and they certainly do not have anything to gain by making it up. If this article offers any criticism, it does so fairly.
I worked there for a total of 3 days before I realized how terrible of a company this was. Bob was a disgusting pig, making sexual comments and bragging about his money. When they hired me as. Production Assistant, they said I would be working with the creative department – instead, I was told the entire job was cold calling cities and local businesses. When I questioned my manager, she said, “oh yea, that’s how we get people to take the job”
It’s a terrible place to work. Barto is an awful human being and lacks any true leadership qualities. I worked as a video editor there for a brief period of time. It was a marketing sweatshop. Had to hit quotas on videos edited in a day. Now their “digital” agency Next performs all sorts of black hat techniques. The worst one is creating fake Google accounts to leave positive Google reviews on their clients’ sites. The leadership there lacks any moral or ethical characteristics.
Meghan Hoffmann says:
This is all comical. I’m sure that you gain an average tenure of over 7 years by being the worst?? Makes no sense. Coming from a once-former employee, I know people assume the grass is always greener… the grass is the most green here, trust. This is not a place you start a job, you build a career.
Your points are valid. They don’t, however, negate the points made in this article. It is possible to have an unhealthy work environment also be a place where a career is built.
This article is garbage, I’ve worked with for this company for over a decade, Ms. Barnhart interviews a bunch of “ex employees” i.e. people who worked themselves out of a job. Not a single comment from a current employee. Yeah the CEO might be tough on you, it’s only because he wants the best out of you and if somebody can’t handle a little criticism, well then good luck in life to that snowflake. Bob Barto and the CGI executive team has done more for employees than any other company I’ve ever been a part of. Rachel Barnhart is looking for click bait and should be ashamed of herself.
Rochester For All says:
Even if you take out the former workers, there is cause for concern.
That said, the former workers all have the same experiences. They didn’t all work there at the same time. Their voices matter.
We have since heard from other former workers who shared the exact same stories, and then some. They’ve all moved on with their lives and gain nothing by speaking out.
Are you suggesting they’re lying about Bartosiewicz kissing women workers and having them sit on his lap? What specifically is inaccurate?
The perspective of current workers is important, but it doesn’t mean the former workers didn’t have these experiences. – Rachel
So the perspective of current workers is so important, you interviewed a total of none? How can you justify that?
Rochester For All says:
We contacted CGI for an official comment. They chose not to respond. We will post any response from the company and have been approving comments supporting the company from workers. – Rachel
Do you realize you’re defending an individual whose public record incidents alone render him disreputable?
“Hey we interviewed 10 of Steve’s ex girlfriends and guess what…. Nobody had anything good to say” …. Award winning journalism here….
Nobody goes to work a job wanting to date the boss. Have you learned nothing from news of the last few months?
I work for a company that has hired two former employees and had an employee whose spouse was a manager there. I can say with absolute certainty that we heard of similar stories including objectifying and harassing female employees. Many people in the advertising and communications field have wondered when someone would pull the curtain back and expose this facade of a reputable company.
Evan Gooding says:
If you’re going to do a legitimate investigation on a company comments from older employees shouldn’t be considered credible sources. The stories they tell are entertaining and will generate a lot of conspiracy theories about CGI. However these stories do not accurately depict the reputation of this company. So let me tell my story as a current employee.
2 years ago I was out of college and eager to get in the workforce. I struggled to find work in my digital marketing field and I saw a commercial for CGI. I looked into the company and wanted to learn more. After the interview the company gave me a shot.
The past 2 years have been the best 2 years of my life. This job gave me the opportunity to learn and grow with my digital advertising career path. I’ve met with Mayor’s, County Officials, CEOs and Presidents of organizations large and small. All of which are now flourishing with CGI’s services and technology and I was able to provide it for them. The networking alone I’ve received from providing these services to these influential members of society is truly incredible.
As far as my thoughts on our CEO I’ve never met someone who loves Rochester more than him. He has brought incredible job opportunities and development to downtown Rochester. He has a wealth of knowledge and has instilled life lessons and critical advice that have shaped me to become as successful as I am today. I’ve never seen or heard of anything inappropriate happening between him and his employees.
I do give you quite a lot of credit though Rachel. Through your valiant research you have managed to find about a half of a dozen people that don’t like CGI. That must’ve been tough and I applaud you for it! Your job as a reporter shouldn’t stop there though. As an arguably reputable reporter you should try to include some insight from people who know and understand what the company stands for. If you’d like me to sit down and do an interview with you please let me know and I’d be happy to share more.
Otherwise good luck with whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish here I truly hope you find it to be a great waste of time.
Rochester For All says:
I’m glad you have had a positive experience and I appreciate your insight. We’ve now spoken to 20 former employees who tell of troubling behavior and work practices. I am comfortable with the volume and consistency of the stories. Many people corroborated specific incidents. Just because you didn’t see something, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But again, your perspective is important and I am glad you’ve shared it. We did ask the company for a response. We still welcome one now. – Rachel
No part of this article offers a criticism against you or the opportunities the company has provided to its employees. The goal is to inform the public, whose taxs dollars are being used to support CGI, about the objectively unethical behavior of the CEO.
All of the accounts of abuse and harassment aside for a moment, I would never knowingly invest in a company if the CEO was getting involved in bar fights and being sued for assault.
Whether or not the attributes you have described redeem him is for each individual to decide. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
Evan Gooding says:
Not to mention the tax dollars contributing to CGI are going to benefit the residents of Rochester. Nobody is perfect just look at this reporting for example.
Anonymous 2 says:
I worked here for 5 years as a top performer and I can say this article is quite accurate. Especially in the sales department.
William B. says:
The current employees that stand in defense of the CGI “business model” are a disgrace. My son is a former employee of CGI. He wishes to remain anonymous because of fear of retaliation. The mental anguish he experienced and the pressure he was under to perform would not be tolerated at any legitimate business. Former employees should file a class action suit against CGI, the CEO, and its leadership team for allowing the practices mentioned in this blog. These testimonials show abuse of power through bullying, sexual harassment, and a hostile work environment. I encourage all of you who were treated poorly by Mr. Bartosowiecz to stand together as one and have your collective voice heard!!!
Alton Baird says:
Right off the bat, the biggest point you make is absolutely and demonstrably false. You refer to the Better Business Bureau’s reviews of CGI Communications. I just checked the site myself because that seemed so wildly inaccurate (and it is in fact wildly inaccurate). There are 34 reviews as of this minute and 31 are Positive! 3 are negative. From all available information, CGI has tens of thousands of clients! And has been in business for over 31 years. So your facts are absolutely wrong. You conflate complaints with reviews. And by the way to have only 17 complaints in 31 years is not only laudable, it is amazing. In addition, to state the demonstrably wrong review statistics is misleading at the very best and certainly libelous. I hope to have you reply and address the actual number of positive/negative reviews and correct your story.
Then to quote a few disgruntled employees while CGI is consistently a Best Workplace, as noted by the Democrat & Chronicle (based on 300 anonymous employee interviews) is also not a healthy journalistic approach but mere cherry picking of the facts to fit your personal viewpoint.
Your article was not only wildly inaccurate and misleading but actually in fact, libelous as to the BBB reviews of CGI Communications. I look forward to your reply and your correction.
Rochester For All says:
The website indeed had those reviews when we posted this piece. It must have changed since then. We did notice more positive reviews posted since this story went up.
I will get in touch with BBB to see why he website changed.
We didn’t post comments from a few disgruntled employees. We talked to 8 people, who have similar stories and corroborate each other. Since then, we’ve heard from many, many more. We may do a follow-up.
Alton Baird says:
Again let me be clear. There were NEVER 17 negative reviews on BBB. And now you are inferring that somehow BBB altered their own content? There were and are over 90% positive reviews. Again, please check your research and numbers…the only 17 was in reference to complaints; and to re-state, that is 17 complaints with tens of thousands of pleased customers and communities. Businesses can only pray for success like that. I still can barely believe you just inferred BBB altered their own content. Trying to digest that Whopper. By all means give them a call–Love to hear the outcome but my guess is we won’t hear about their reply.
8 disgruntled employees? Out of 100’s? Wow, having run my business for well over 25 years that is a wonderful ratio. No one is forced to work at CGI–They do so out of their own free will and many stay for decades and decades.
Rochester For All says:
I don’t know what website you’re looking at. There are 17 complaints. https://www.bbb.org/upstate-new-york/business-reviews/video-production-services/cgi-communications-inc-in-rochester-ny-79000040/reviews-and-complaints
Alton Baird says:
That is exactly the website I have been referring to–The BBB website. The one you inferred had been somehow altered in your earlier reply.
Rachel, did you actually read my comments? I would think as someone who considers themselves a journalist you would have carefully read the messaging before responding. I clearly stated that there were 17 complaints (replied to) over 31 years with thousands and thousands of satisfied clients and communities. What does that have to do with reviews? You are still conflating complaints with reviews. They are 2 completely different items. You incorrectly stated there are 17 negative reviews and then you claimed the BBB may have changed their own website somehow. Of course, as you know that will be easy to check with BBB and internet history which will be interesting to them when they get the message.
Once again with feeling–There are 34 reviews–31 Positive and 3 Negative. Count them up on the BBB site. Your misleading writing even had another reader believing there were 17 bad reviews when there are actually only 3 bad reviews. You seem intelligent–All you have to do is total up the reviews and you will clearly see there are only 3 negative ones out of 34. 90% Positive. What would a reasonable person (legal defitinition) draw from your article? They would infer the incorrect conclusion that there are 17 negative reviews, when in fact there are only 3. Please re-read my messages and correct your article and your replies. I am truly hoping you will clarify in your article that there are only 3 negative reviews not 17.
Rochester For All says:
I read many complaints on the BBB website. I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve made your point on this subject of the BBB website, and I won’t approve more comments about it. People can judge for themselves. – Rachel
This is pretty funny. “Eric” from CGI miraculously had 5 positive reviews all posted to the BBB website on 2/19/2018. That just happens to be the day after this article was posted by Rochester For All. As I now read the BBB website, there are 34 customer reviews with 17 customer complaints. Good work “Eric”. You deserve a raise
Eric is a VP at CGI Communications. Upper management, including Eric, have been instructed to post positive employee reviews to combat the negative critics against CGI. This is the same tactic the company uses to post positive reviews for its BBB rating, various clients in the US, and any other area where CGI’s integrity may be jeopardized. I know this, because as a former employee for years, I was also asked to do this.
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