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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 19, 2010
Political squabbling continues
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Republican town board members are questioning the work logs of some elected and appointed officials.
Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion said he takes employee-submitted logs at face value.
At a town board meeting on July 6, members voted to adopt a resolution establishing the standard work day for elected and appointed officials; the vote was split down party lines. The resolution is required by the state comptroller to report the hours to the state and local employees’ retirement system, in order to determine pension credits.
Officials were asked to log the hours they spent working for the town over a specific three-month period.
After the resolution was adopted, an error was discovered in the calculation of hours for the four town board members; their hours had been calculated monthly, rather than bi-weekly. Due to the error, and the subsequent re-calculation of hours, the resolution came before the board for another vote at a meeting on Aug. 17.
Republican board members Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm had voted against the adoption of the resolution on July 6 because they said they hadn’t been given enough time to review the logs submitted by the town’s elected and appointed officials.
Democratic board member Patricia Slavick said at Tuesday’s meeting that the number of hours logged by fellow board members would not make much of a difference because, in order to be vested, a person needs five years of credit. Board members only get three days of credit per pay period, which amounts to one year of credit over the course of three years.
“You’d have to work for over 15 years on the town board to enter into the pension system,” Slavick said.
However, Grimm raised concerns about the logs submitted by town attorney Richard Sherwood, and by Peter Barber, the zoning board chairman. According to Grimm, Sherwood’s log did not comply with regulations, because he included vacation days in the three-month period he recorded. Grimm said Barber had calculated his hours incorrectly.
In response to Grimm’s concerns, Runion said he felt Redlich and Grimm, who, along with other board members, are paid an annual stipend of $22,000, had not complied with regulations, because they had included hours in their logs for things that were not considered town business. The town board did not vote to adopt the resolution, and decided to table the decision, to review the logs again.
Runion told The Enterprise yesterday that he had checked Barber’s calculations and they were correct.
He said that Sherwood was not wrong for including vacation time in his log, but the town attorney needed to extend his log by the number of days he had taken off.
“Everyone is supposed to record their hours during a three-month period, so if Sherwood took four days off during those three months, he needs to extend his log four days into the next month,” Runion explained. Sherwood will need to re-submit his log after he completes the extension.
What counts as town work?
Grimm and Redlich, according to Runion, submitted logs that included hours spent on post-meeting discussion, talking to the media, attending campaign and political events, and ribbon-cuttings.
“The comptroller says you aren’t supposed to be claiming time for attending electoral campaign events, or time spent after board meetings,” Runion said.
“My time sheets are completely appropriate, and Runion’s attack is just a reckless deflection of his lack of oversight,” said Grimm. Both Grimm and Redlich criticized Runion’s vote to adopt the original resolution on July 6, without questioning their work logs; he pointed out his concerns only after they brought up potential problems with other officials, they said.
“He is only bringing this up now because he doesn’t like us questioning other people’s hours, but that’s our job,” Redlich told The Enterprise this week. Runion disagreed.
“It’s not their function to delve into those jobs; it’s really the state comptroller’s function,” said Runion.
After the resolution is passed, the logs will be filed with the town clerk, who will provide them to the comptroller in the case of an audit.
According to Grimm, the role of the town board is to provide effective oversight of town employees’, including officials’, hours; he said Runion had a history of a lack of oversight, especially in the case of James Murley, the former police chief.
In January 2009, after a lengthy investigation, Murley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct for leaving work repeatedly to gamble. Between Feb. 23, 2001 and Aug. 18, 2004, Murley failed to file leave forms from work 53 times, and filed sick leave forms three times, when he was absent from work to go to Turning Stone Casino, according to court papers.
“Runion signed time sheets for Murley. That is a lack of oversight that can’t be disputed. And nothing has changed,” said Grimm. Redlich agreed.
“Runion is supposed to supervise people’s hours. If he thinks there is something wrong with our logs, he failed to do his job when he approved them the first time,” said Redlich.
“I take work logs at face value. I just don’t think it is my job to go any further than that,” said Runion, in response to the Republican board members’ assertions that he should be carefully monitoring town employees’ hours.
“If I had to go and check to see if every employee was in the office every hour of the day, I’d be run ragged,” the supervisor said. With respect to Murley, he said the former police chief had submitted all of the appropriate paperwork, and it was impossible to discern a discrepancy, since Murley’s job required him to be out of the office regularly. Murley had also been out on sick leave and had doctor’s notes, said Runion.
“It was only when we were able to subpoena paperwork from the State Police that we were able to discern a discrepancy,” Runion said. He said he would not question an employee’s hours unless he had direct evidence that they were inconsistent.
Evidence is exactly what Grimm said Runion doesn’t have, to prove that Grimm’s work log is not accurate. Grimm logged time at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, which he said is constituent work, post-meeting discussions with Redlich, and review of meeting minutes.
“I don’t think you and Redlich swinging golf clubs in the parking lot counts as post-meeting discussion,” Runion quipped during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m very thorough. I do a ton of research when it comes to the town board, and I am sure people have a good sense of that now,” said Grimm. “One example is how much time I spent going through these logs.”
Grimm said that, from a positive standpoint, the board agreed to re-visit the logs before the next meeting.
“I found two instances which the supervisor has now conceded were inappropriate, and I think he was embarrassed about the mistakes he made,” said Grimm. Runion’s embarrassment, he said, was the driving force behind his complaints about the Republican board member’s logs.
“They were raising some issues they had based on the face of the logs, and I was pointing out, ‘Hey, your record isn’t that great either,’” Runion said. But, he said, from his point of view, it’s not up to him to decide if it’s right or wrong, it is up to the state comptroller.
“I don’t care about the pension anyway. I’m not going to log enough hours to get it,” said Redlich.