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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 15, 2012

“It came totally out of nowhere”
Guilderland assessor fired

GUILDERLAND — The town is operating with a temporary assessor after John Macejka was abruptly fired last Wednesday.

The town board met in executive session on Tuesday, March 6, after a regular meeting, and on Wednesday, March 7, Macejka was called in to Supervisor Kenneth Runion’s office and told he was being fired.

“It came totally out of nowhere,” Macejka told The Enterprise this week.

The former assessor said he asked the supervisor for a reason for the termination, and, Macejka said, “Runion mumbled something about” three complaints against him, from residents, over a period of 10 days.

“I do not have any idea what the complaints were — it could have been someone upset because they didn’t submit the proper form in time for their taxes, or it could have been someone upset over their assessment; I simply don’t know,” said Macejka.

Runion also mentioned a “locked door,” Macejka said. Macejka had locked the door to the assessor’s office on a day when things were chaotic and he felt the office should be secured, he said.

When Macejka left the supervisor’s office, he was escorted to his office by Guilderland Police Officer Thomas Funk, and told to clean out his desk.

“I asked if this was a criminal matter, and he said no, it was just protocol,” Macejka said, noting that he did not receive any paperwork or even a letter of termination.

“When I was leaving, Officer Funk told me he had dealt with this situation many times, and I was handling it very professionally; he shook my hand and wished me well,” said Macejka.

He immediately retained counsel, and used the Freedom of Information Law to obtain the written resolution from last Tuesday’s executive session. The Enterprise also received a copy of the resolution.

The record shows that the town board entered into executive session at 7:57 p.m., and spent nearly two hours deliberating, before board member Brian Forte “moved to terminate the employment of the town assessor, John Macejka, for cause, effective immediately.”

Board member Allan Maikels seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.

Both Forte and Maikels were appointed to the town board for their first term in January.

“I have never met either one of them or talked to them about the assessor’s office,” Macejka said.

He was appointed to the assessor’s position in the fall of 2008, when long-time assessor Carol Wysomski retired, after she came under fire from two newly-elected Republican board members, Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm.

At the time, Runion said Macejka was the “most qualified” of all of the applicants, and Wysomski said, “He’s excellent…he would have been at the top of my list.” (For the full story go online to www.altamontenterprise.com, under the Guilderland archives, for Sept. 11, 2008.)

“When I look back at that and read all of the wonderful things Runion and Wysomski said about me back then, I have to wonder, ‘What happened?’” Macejka asked.

Brian Forte, the board member who made the motion to fire Macejka, told The Enterprise that the board based its decision on “the circumstances.”

“We base our facts on what the town attorney tells us,” said Forte. He said he could not disclose the facts because it was a “personnel matter.”

Neither Runion, nor Town Attorney Richard Sherwood, returned calls seeking comment.

Macejka said he knew he was being brought in at a tumultuous time, and was even informed that part of his role was to placate Grimm and Redlich.

“I was not told that, when their terms were up, my term would be up; that part was left out,” he said. Neither Grimm, nor Redlich, ran for re-election last fall.

After the town board unanimously decided to fire Macejka, they moved to appoint Wysomski as acting assessor.

However, Wysomski said she knew nothing of the assessor’s termination until Thursday, March 8.

“I received a phone call on Thursday morning asking if I would be willing to fill in as temporary assessor until the town found someone to hire permanently,” she told The Enterprise this week. She said she had no knowledge of why Macejka had been fired.

“I didn’t ask because it is none of my business,” said Wysomski. “I am just trying to help the town.”

Wysomski was the assessor for 37 years before she retired.

Macejka said, in addition to retaining counsel, he notified the New York State Assessors’ Association and the Office of Real Property.

“There is some concern that the supervisor has set a precedent that is unheard of in the Capital Region or even in the state — assessors are term-appointed employees and I don’t know if sudden termination is acceptable,” he said. His term was slated to end in September 2013.

“I have to protect my right to employment,” he said.

Macejka said he takes great pride in the work he has accomplished as the Guilderland assessor over the past three years.

“I think I’ve been doing a great job,” he said.

When he was hired in 2008, the state-set equalization rate was down to 79 percent; he has managed to bring it up to 92 percent, without doing a town-wide revaluation, and working with half the staff, he said. Macejka also said he felt he worked well with the business community, the media, and the town residents.

“It isn’t an easy job, being an assessor,” he said. “When you have a process called a ‘grievance,’ when residents come to you specifically to complain, and that’s part of your job, you know it’s going to be hard.”

Macejka streamlined the grievance process by allowing residents to schedule appointments, rather than having hundreds of people show up at the same time, on the same designated day, and wait hours to be heard.

“It sounds silly, but I think that was pretty popular with the residents,” Macejka said.

He also prided himself on cross-training the staff in the assessor’s office, so that all employees are familiar with the assessment process, and not just trained on one specific job, and on being transparent.

“I just have to wonder, ‘What happened?’” he reiterated. “This came out of nowhere…to have to come home and tell my family about this…you just can’t imagine what it is like.”

— By Anne Hayden

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