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Clarkstown Town Board Votes To Consolidate Mechanics (VIDEO)

Councilmember questions legality of action

 

The Clarkstown Town Board voted four to one on Tuesday night to adopt a local law under a new town garage department to be supervised by the town board. Councilmember Shirley Lasker voted against the transfer of mechanics from the town highway department, mini trans and town garage to a single town garage. She also opposed the creation of the fleet manager position to operate the town garage.

Lasker sought other opinions before making her decision.

“I believe this is illegal and I think it’s going to be overturned in court,” she said.

Lasker explained she felt the move takes away the authority of Town Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard over the mechanics responsible for maintaining highway department equipment. She consulted with the attorneys for the state Association of Towns and read state comptroller opinions. 

Lasker said unfortunately a compromise that was in negotiations failed. According to Lasker, that option would have had Dennis Malone, who currently runs the Mini Trans and the expected candidate for fleet manager, work under Ballard.    She said Malone declined that possible resolution.

The town board obtained a legal opinion from outside counsel, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP, on the proposed law.  

“You have asked us to review whether the Town Board may lawfully re-assign mechanics who work in the highway department to a central vehicle maintenance facility that is not under the supervision of the Highway Superintendent. Our opinion is that the Town Board may do so.”  

The law firm cited the towns of Whitestown in Oneida County and Blooming Grove in Orange County as examples of municipalities where similar consolidation took place.

After the meeting, Ballard noted the Rockland County Personnel Department, Rockland County Highway Department and State Highway Superintendent must still approve the law.

“I am disappointed that the town board saw it another way,” he said. “I have to respect their opinion on it and see how things are going to go and hopefully it will work out.”

The town board revised the local law to state it does not reduce the powers of the highway superintendent as required by state highway law.

“It reinforces that this law will not and does not diminish any statutory powers and duties of the Town Superintendent of Highways by this consolidation.”

The creation of the fleet manager job would mean an increase of approximately $4,000 in Malone’s salary. 

New City resident Marge Hook was one of several audience members wearing black t-shirts with white lettering that said, “We love you Wayne.”

She spoke against the law.

“I feel the town is being blackmailed,” she said. “I believe this is an illegal move to begin with.”  

Guy Gervasi supported the decision because of the anticipated savings.  He said if it can be done legally people should put personalities aside to make it work.

“I recommend that consolidation should go through,” he said.  

Michael N. Hull July 25, 2012 at 10:28 AM
Councilwoman Lasker is to be congratulated for doing her homework.  She is correct that this local law will be challenged in court because of the precedence it sets that one group of elected individuals can remove the responsibilities of another elected official.    Every Highway Superintendent will join this legal challenge and who will pay for Clarkstown to defend this 4-1 decision - the taxpayers.   This work will be outsourced to a very expensive law firm. The first tragedy here is that consolidation may indeed produce significant savings which raises the question of why all of the Town Boards in Rockland County have not come together and consolidated all of their garages under a single garage for the whole of Rockland County? This type of consolidation proposal might have survived the legal challenge which the Town of Clarkstown will now have to face alone.  The second tragedy which I had brought up before http://nanuet.patch.com/d/blog_posts/the-vote-was-no-will-the-result-be-yes and which Councilwoman Lasker has now confirmed, is that Dennis Malone, who has always been slated to fill the Fleet Manager position, refuses to report to Wayne Ballard.  Malone's position and proposed higher salary would be unaffected and the consolidation savings could have been achieved but apparently he was not prepared to put personalities aside for the good of the Town of Clarkstown. And that is not only a tragedy but a shame!
Mike Hirsch July 25, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I am personally in favor of the garage consolidation for the simple reason that it will save the town alot of money. I agree that personalities should have no place in our town's governance because it is counterproductive. As far as legalities are concerned, Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes once rematked that "the law is what the judge says it is". The town's bought and paid for law firm Wilson Elser simply write an opinion that Alex and Mele want them to. When The Clarkstown Taxpayer Group pushed for term limits last year, which was opposed by Alex, Wilson Elser wrote an opinion favorable to Alex's point of view. When the Savino vetting process began to be questioned, again it was Wilson Elser to the rescue who said that they were also contacted by Mele. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that a call was put into them after the fact.
Mary July 25, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Alex Gromack said that the referendum on the ballot last year only had to do with making the position of Super of Highways an appointed position, yet in a previous Patch article, Gromack stated that this would enable the town to consolidate the garages... (last paragraph)... http://newcity.patch.com/articles/clarkstown-referendum-for-consolidation-passes-other-referendum-fails
linda Paolino July 25, 2012 at 02:03 PM
This seems like a recipe for disaster. It's common sense, Ballard needs to have the full responsibly of the Highway Dept's equipment.
Robin Traum (Editor) July 25, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Mary At that time, town officials explained that they thought the only legal way to consolidate the town's mechanics was if the superintendent's position was appointed not elected. They investigated additional avenues which led to the development of the local law that was approved Tuesday night.
INTHEKNOW July 25, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Ballard will be wasting more of your money soon, when he hires his buddy Sparaco to a no show job at $80,000 a year. Mr. "no tax increase" will have no problem taking two salaries from the taxpayer.
Mike Hirsch July 25, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I don't think that will happen. It would be political suicide for Wayne to do that. The job is only worth $20,000. Besides, Sparaco is poison.

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