HAMBURG — The road was no smoother for the six-week old Hamburg Town Board when it convened for its first meeting of the month, on Feb. 10.
For the second straight meeting, Councilman Michael Quinn pulled out a late resolution, absent from the original agenda for the meeting and, therefore, unpredicted by the townspeople, asking for a resolution that had been tabled at a prior meeting to be brought back to the surface.
While Supervisor Steven Walters opposed the move, calling it “a bad idea,” Quinn and Councilwoman Cheryl Potter-Juda ruled in favor, thus bringing the matter to light.
As amended, the resolution read, “Whereas the town board finds it to be their duty to regain control and oversight of building and grounds department, and whereas the termination of the employment of William Dash offers an opportunity to fulfill the town board’s objective at no increased cost to taxpayers, be it resolved the town board approve the appointment of Steven Micak to fill the newly created position of director of buildings and grounds.
“The appointment will run until Dec. 31, 2014 at a salary of $23,500. This appointment will be part-time, whereby the director will work a minimum of 40 hours per pay period [two weeks] and whereby the director will oversee the entire operation of the buildings and grounds department and will report directly to the town board.”
Walters pointed out that such a position, in his opinion, should fulfill “the minimum requirements for civil service,” which the supervisor said have not been met. Quinn responded that he does not consider the position to be a civil service one.
Superintendent of Highways Tom Best said, “I do not believe that the town of Hamburg, in our history, has ever had a part-time department head in charge of any department. In fact, I believe in New York state has anybody ran any kind of department part time. So I take exception to you putting somebody in part time.”
He then asked, “Aside from politics, can you give me any justification for removing from a $2,500 position, full time, and giving it to somebody part time for $23,500? There’s absolutely no justification whatsoever.”
Potter-Juda pointed out that Best had previously been working both positions both time, but Best insisted that the difference lay in the fact that Best was always present on the premises full time, to work both positions. In the new scheme, Micak would be available for his duties only 20 hours per week.
“What kind of government are we running all of a sudden here?” Best asked. “You can’t run like that. You can’t do that. You cannot deprive the people of this town their due diligence of having a full-time person there.”
Of Micak, Best added, “He’s a good man, but nobody, he or anybody else, can do that job part time. It shouldn’t be a part-time position. If you want to hire him full time, I’ll guide him right through the whole thing. Hire him full time for $23,000, if that’s what you want; if that’s what he wants. But certainly don’t put him in there part time.”
Quinn responded, “The buildings and grounds department has historically been under the control of the town board, and we’re just taking that back.”
“It’s a wrong move, Mr. Quinn,” Best said. “It’s a wrong move. I’ve told you that before.”
Walters said, “I think it’s a mistake,” and suggested the board put the resolution back on the table. However, his move received no second.
Walters added, “I think it’s imperative that this town board gets an opinion from the town attorney as to whether or not this matter will put the town in a difficult position in light of the fact that there is a potential action pending against the town.
“I think it’s important that we get an answer from the town attorney regarding the matter that we discussed previously. I’d like a record that this is not a wise decision from a legal standpoint.”
Town Attorney Walter Rooth said, “This issue was discussed in executive session, and I think it would be up to the council to decide whether or not to discuss what happened in the executive session in public. I provided my opinion in executive session, and I think it’s on them to decide whether or not to pass it along to the rest of the people.”
Walters said, “If the board is adamant in doing this, then I think the board should provide their proper service to their constituents and ask that the town attorney answer the question.” After receiving no response, Walters said, “I think your silence speaks volumes.
“I think it’s incumbent on this town board to run an open and transparent government and ask the questions that are pertinent to the taxpayers of the town and what the effect of their respective decisions on the taxpayers of the town could be.”
After the councilmembers remained silent, Walters said, “I think the board has made it clear that they do not wish the public to be informed.”
Though Walters opposed the resolution, it passed by a 2-to-1 vote.
In light of pending decision, Quinn said to Best, “I’m sure you and Steve are going to work together just fine.”
“I’m sure we’re not,” Best replied.
Micak announced his resignation from the position on Feb. 13.