Weaver leaves Dems, who back Duncan
Scott Duncan, Democratic candidate for Highway Superintendent in Berne, shares an embrace during the East Berne Volunteer Fire Department's 50th anniversary celebration in the town park on Sept. 14. Duncan is the fire chief and works as a supervising foreman for the Albany County Department of Public Works.
BERNE — Democrat Kenneth Weaver, Berne’s highway superintendent who has declined the backing of his own party for the fall election, was called from the back of the room at a Republican caucus to explain why he deserved endorsement.
“I’m looking for a job,” Weaver said as he walked in front of the quiet room of Republicans, who are outnumbered 3 to 1 by Democrats in Berne, and make up 16 percent of registered voters in the town. He told the Republicans he needed their help to protect the highway department. Weaver got their endorsement.
After the meeting in the East Berne firehouse on Sept. 5, Weaver told The Enterprise that he was referring to a possible revisit to shared services attempted in Berne in 2006 where county public works would share some duties with the town highway department as a way of saving money.
His opponent on the Democratic and Independence Party lines, Scott Duncan, is known for having evaluated efficiencies in county highway operations as a supervising highway foreman in Knox and Westerlo subdivisions of the Albany County Department of Public Works. But Duncan told The Enterprise any plan to share or consolidate services between the town highway department and the county would be difficult.
Weaver’s predecessor, Ray Storm, was in favor of shared services along with Supervisor Kevin Crosier, who is running on the Democratic line for a new four-year term against Republican William Keal.
Democratic town board member Joseph Golden described the 2008 Democratic caucus in which Weaver supplanted Storm.
“He basically knocked the former highway superintendent out by bringing a whole bunch of people…to the caucus and beat the other guy,” said Democratic town board member Joseph Golden.
This year, Weaver declined the nominations of the Independence, Conservative, and Democrat parties for another term in order to retire. Then, claiming a promise to preserve his benefits after retirement was broken, Weaver is running on the Republican line and has applied to change his party enrollment to match. He told The Enterprise that he has to pay his wife’s benefits in retirement and wanted assurance his would be stable.
Crosier said the town’s attorney, William Conboy, had told Weaver he could not have an agreement in writing, as he requested, because the current town board members won’t always be in office.
“I told him, as long as I’m supervisor, I wouldn’t change the benefit. That’s what he was told. That’s a promise,” Crosier told The Enterprise. “As long as I’m supervisor, I won’t change the benefit. What more would you want?” Golden corroborated what Crosier said; Golden was in the room when the promise was made, he said, and he and Crosier told Weaver they wouldn’t vote to change his benefits.
In 2010, the town’s employee handbook was revised with a separate paragraph in its eligibility requirements for an elected official or employee who is not part of a bargaining unit and retires before Jan. 1, 2014, which describes Weaver’s situation. The revised policy requires the retiree to have been employed for at least 30 years — Weaver has worked for Berne for 37 years — with the town and to be at least 57 years old, which Weaver became in January this year.
Duncan, chief of the East Berne Fire Department, received endorsement after Weaver declined the Democratic line on which he had he won his current term. After Duncan had been nominated in the Democratic caucus, Crosier joined the local party committee, Gerald O’Malley, chair of the committee, told The Enterprise.
Weaver won’t be an enrolled Republican until after the election, said Rachel Bledi, Republican Commissioner of the Albany County Board of Elections, due to a provision in State Election Law.
“They put me out pretty much to put in a county boss,” Weaver said. He claimed he walked into the East Berne firehouse when Duncan was meeting with his bosses from the county and Crosier.
Duncan told The Enterprise he had understood Weaver was retiring when he took the endorsement.
“None of my current bosses or commissioners, or such, approached me for this job,” said Duncan. “It was more townspeople asking me if I would consider a nomination. Above and beyond that, I don’t believe consolidation is the way to go.”
Duncan said he is not aware of any relation between him and the county’s commissioner of public works, Darrell Duncan. If he wins, Scott Duncan’s salary would increase from $41,359, which he earns with the county now, according to the county budget, to $51,200 from the town of Berne, according to the town budget. He said he wants the job in order to be closer to his family and the town he grew up in.
“I get to deal directly with the townspeople rather than have a commissioner between them and myself,” said Duncan.
In addition to Duncan and Crosier, the Democrats in Berne have endorsed incumbents Joseph Golden and Wayne Emory for town council, Anita Clayton for town clerk, Albert Raymond and Alan Zuk for town justice, Melanie Bunzey for assessor, and Gerald O’Malley for tax collector.
In addition to Keal and Weaver, the Republicans have endorsed Richard Otto and Philip Stevens for town council, Diane Dibble for town clerk, Walt Scram for assessor, and Ian Connors for tax collector.
The town clerk for 34 years, Democrat Patricia Favreau said she plans to retire.