Town Codes        Town Codes        Search Town Minutes

Monday, March 9, 2009

Santa Reed and the Bookkeeper...Part 6

Let's see where were we? Oh yes, how did Ms. Fairbrother accrue so much overtime? Town employees, other than the Highway Dept. normally work 7 hours a day, 35 hours a week. Their work day is from 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an hour for lunch.

A look at Ms. Fairbrother's timesheets shows that she rarely started her work day at 8:00 a.m. like all other town employees are required to do. Ms. Fairbrother worked her hours as if she was a salaried employee; she pretty much determined her own hours sometimes arriving at work as late at 10 a.m. then working until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.

We saw only a couple of instances where Ms. Fairbrother took a vacation for a full week. She would use her sick time, personal time and vacation time an hour at a time so she could leave work early. Sometimes she would claim one (1) hour of sick time one day and then another one (1) hour of sick time at the end of the next day (sometimes as little as .25 hours of sick time) whatever it took to make her total hours equal seven (7). Then that same week she would come in on the weekend, work sometimes both Saturday and Sunday. Viola! 10-12 hours overtime.

It appears that Ms. Fairbrother wants it both ways. The ability to come and go as she pleases and to get overtime pay as well. Unfortunately, the 1999 approved board resolution specifically states that Ms. Fairbrother is a Civil Service exempt employee. Her job description that we obtained through the FOIL process even says she is an Exempt employee.

Additionally, some of Ms. Fairbrother's timesheets were done in pencil and some had white-out over the hours worked. Some were signed by a person who is not her supervisor and some were not signed at all.

Ralph Humphreys, the previous Town Supervisor, said he didn't worry about the hours she worked because she was a salaried employee and the job required that she work until the job was done. But why did Earle Reed allow her to keep working on her own "time schedule" if he thought she was not a salaried employee?

Town Attorney Jerry Green has been working on the overtime for Ms. Fairbrother since December 2006. Earle Reed has been in the Supervisor's chair since January 1, 2006...shouldn't Supervisor Reed have told Ms. Fairbrother to not work any extra hours without his approval long before December 2008 if he thought she was due so much overtime?

What are some of the additional costs to the taxpayers to resolve an issue that is quite clearly defined in the 1999 Town Board Resolution? Attorney Gerald Green was paid almost $3,400 between December 2006 and December 2008 to research Ms. Fairbrother's overtime. Attorney Sciotti of the Hancock & Estabrooke law firm billed the town $2,000 for the opinion he gave the town...unfortunately, Attorney Sciotti didn't do his homework or he would have found the board resolution that we found. This sweet deal will also increase the pension benefits of Ms. Fairbrother, plus the additional portion of social security that the town will have to pay.

Actually, we have a letter and the invoices from Attorney Sciotti. Attorney Sciotti stated in his letter that his bill was for more than $2,000 but "he wrote the bill down" so it would total $2,000 because the agreement was that if the bill was any more than $2,000, it would have to go before the town board for approval. The town board would have had to do so in the open; can't spend money out of the view of the public unless it is budgeted.

So the question still remains under what authority did the town board give Ms. Fairbrother the $71,547 in overtime?

According to Roberts Rule that the town conducts their business by, 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 looked, but she couldn't find one. In fact, we just received a certification from the Town Clerk that none exists. Therefore, the 1999 Town Board Resolution still is in effect...Ms. Fairbrother is not entitled to overtime or comp time.

Furthermore, sometime in 2007, the job of Payroll was taken from Ms. Fairbrother and given to Personnel. It was never mentioned in a town board meeting...they merely took from one department and gave to another. According to Town Law, the duties of the Town Supervisor are
Town Law Article 3A; Title 3 § 52. Supervisor.

6. Provide for and direct the internal organization and reorganization within individual town departments or agencies where consistent with applicable law, provided, however, that in any event, permissible transfers of functions between departments or agencies shall be subject to approval of the town board.
The Town Clerk was unable to provide us with a town board resolution approving the transfer of the Payroll function from the bookkeeper to the Personnel Department. So the town clerk again provided us with a certification to attest to the fact that no resolution exists.

So not only did the town board pay Ms. Fairbrother monies she was not entitled to, but they failed to obtain the consensus of the town board in open meeting to transfer functions between two departments. And how come, after they took away some of Ms. Fairbrother's job duties, she still found it necessary to finagle so many overtime hours and no one said a word?

The question we will be asking the town board is under what authorization did you override an approved town board resolution in one instance and fail to adopt a town board resolution in the second instance. How much research did Attorney Green do for $ 3,400 and just what information was provided to Attorney Sciotti from Hancock and Estabrooke.


Anonymous said...

They might have better spent the $5000 to have a better time keeping method in place like KRONOS. This is 2009 not 1970's I just can not believe they are using paper time sheets with all that scribble on it. What a poor method. Leaves a lot of room for fraudulent entries and over or under payments. This is a total waste of money.

Anonymous said...

The Fair Labor Standards Act clearly defines exempt and non-exempt employees. Can anyone give an explanation as to the ruling by this Atty and what his basis for determining this was. Should this have been determined by the Federal Government if there was a dispute? Someone needs to explain this decision. How did this process start?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a clear job description?

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Non-union municipal employees come under the Civil Service Law.

Under Civil Service, appointed positions, that is jobs where a Civil Service exam is not required, are EXEMPT and are not entitled to overtime or compensatory time. This would include the town bookkeeper, the Superviser's confidential secretary and several other jobs in town government.

The Town of New Hartford spent two years "shopping" for an opinion that they wanted to hear.

The payment to Ms. Fairbrother was illegal. Concerned Citizens has sent a letter to the town board and all others connected to this misuse of town funds. We will be posting the letter in a couple of days.