Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Town Bookkeeper (cont'd)...

So Ms. Fairbrother was seemingly well aware of the terms of the deal, she knew she was an appointed employee and therefore, under Civil Service, is not entitled to overtime or compensatory time, yet she still signed an agreement to receive $71,544 in overtime pay, plus receive an undetermined amount of compensatory time for 2008. We say undetermined, because we FOILed the alleged amount of compensatory time due Ms. Fairbrother for 2008, but no one seems to be able to answer the question.

Ms. Fairbrother didn't obtain a lawyer...the Town (Earle Reed) supplied one for her...Hancock & Estabrooke...not a "two-bit" law firm by any stretch of the imagination. Why would the Town obtain legal counsel if Ms. Fairbrother didn't? If the Town Board was being prudent with taxpayer dollars, wouldn't they wait until Ms. Fairbrother hired a lawyer and filed either a Notice of Claim or lawsuit with the Town Clerk? We confirmed with the Town Clerk that neither document has been filed with her office.

We looked through minutes of many town board meetings. One in particular caught our eye...January 18, 2006. Page 7 of those minutes says in part:

"Personnel - Non-Civil Service Job Descriptions
Councilman Payne would like to see job descriptions for those employees that are non-civil service, exempt, elected or appointed. Councilman Payne will work with Personnel Assistant Barbara Aiello on these particular job descriptions."
Through the FOIL process, we learned that Town Attorney Gerald Green was involved in Ms. Fairbrother's overtime issue and has been billing the town for this work since 2006. We have FOILed his invoices and are told that we will have them in the next few days. Wonder why Town Supervisor Reed felt he needed to hire 'a big gun' like Hancock & Estabrooke if Town Attorney Green was working on the claim for overtime pay? Wouldn't a simple call to the NYS Comptroller's Office be warranted if after two (2) years (2006-2008) Attorney Green was not able to present the Town with a legal opinion on the matter? After all, the NYS Comptroller's Office renders opinions on such matters. Or they could have called the Oneida County Personnel department that handles Civil Service jobs and hiring.

We FOILed Ms. Fairbrother's job descriptions for the past several years starting with 1999. After several requests in person as to why we were not being given the FOILed job descriptions, we were finally handed a job description that is supposedly the one being used today...except that the Town Clerk told us that the Personnel Director said that even though it says that Ms. Fairbrother is EXEMPT...that is not really true. Hmmm! Is this the same job description that was given to Councilman Payne in 2006 when, according to town board minutes, he requested job descriptions?

Was the Town Board aware of Resolution 200 of 1999? Did they make Attorney Sciotti aware of the resolution? The agreement signed by Ms. Fairbrother and Earle Reed, on behalf of the Town of New Hartford, says in part:

WHEREAS, Special counsel having met with Fairbrother, reviewed related documents and information, conducted the necessary legal research and having determined she is a nonexempt employee entitled to overtime pay...
If they all knew about the 1999 Town Board Resolution, were they hoping that no one else would know about it...because under Robert's Rules Of Order (and we confirmed from the Town Clerk that New Hartford does conduct business under Robert's Rules) a legislative body (town board) has to approve another resolution by at least a majority vote in order to repeal, amend, annul or rescind a previously approved resolution.

We FOILed any resolution that might have been approved by a majority vote of the Town Board to make changes or override Resolution 200 of 1999. The Town Clerk said she doesn't remember one...but she is looking to see if she can find one. We are going to bet that one doesn't exist and the 1999 Resolution is binding.

So did the Town Board "go window shopping" for "a particular" opinion and keep "shopping" until they got the opinion they were looking for from a law firm that no one would question...a law firm like Hancock & Estabrooke; particularly since the opinion is from one of the partners of that law firm?

To be continued...Stay tuned!

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