Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fifty percent of the time they [State Comptroller's Office] are wrong...

according to Town Supervisor Pat Tyksinski in the Sunday, July 18, 2010 Observer Dispatch article, New Hartford bookkeeper ‘retired’ quietly. The story reports on the approximately $101,000 annual pension and salary being paid to Town of New Hartford bookkeeper, Carol Fairbrother since June 1, 2007.

We understand that might be your opinion, Mr. Tyksinski, but unfortunately, the State Comptroller's Office has 100% control of the NYS Retirement Fund 100% of the time; that sort of puts him in the driver's seat.

Not only did Ms. Fairbrother collect this outrageous amount of money for her town bookkeeper job, but in December 2008, she also collected $71,000 of overtime that according to a 1999 Town Board Resolution she was not entitled to.

To top it all off, the 1999 board resolution was adopted allowing for her to take over the added job of the town's payroll functions; and, she was given a raise at that time to take on those added responsibilities.

But then...sometime prior to December 2008, Earle Reed took the payroll function away from Ms. Fairbrother absent town board approval and in violation of Town Law § 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.
We say sometime because no one in the town offices knows, or will say, when that happened. The town clerk has certified that there is no resolution for the transfer of job functions between departments and she has no idea when the payroll was transferred to Personnel Technician Barb Aiello. However, one thing is for sure, Ms. Fairbrother still receives the same pay as when she was doing the payroll, with a 3% raise added each year.

Concerned Citizens did some research and found STATEMENT OF ACCRUED PAYMENTS AND LEAVE CREDITS, a form that needs to be filled out by the town, and sent to the State Comptroller. The top of the form says [all in caps]:
NO RETIREMENT BENEFITS WILL BE PAID TO THE EMPLOYEE LISTED ABOVE UNTIL THIS FORM IS COMPLETED AND RETURNED TO THE ABOVE ADDRESS. PLEASE DO NOT FORGET TO SIGN AND DATE THE BACK OF THE FORM.
The back of the form has AUTHORIZED SIGNATURE, DATE, TITLE and TELEPHONE NUMBER. If no one in town knew she retired, who signed this form?

We also found an Employer's Guide put out by the NYS Comptroller's Office. On page 123 it says:
For payroll purposes, the member's last day on the payroll must precede the day of retirement. For example, if the member is retiring on December 31, the last day the member is able to work for pay is December 30.
Ms. Fairbrother supposedly retired on Friday, June 1, 2007, and according to Attorney Green's invoices, one day after she met with him to discuss "accounting/bookkeeping concerns". The week of her retirement, she worked 7 hours plus overtime Monday through Thursday. Then on Friday, her date of retirement, she put in for 7 hours of sick time. The following week she worked 7 hours plus overtime every day except Wednesday when she worked 3 hours and also put in for 4 hours of vacation. All together her paycheck for the two (2) week pay period inclusive of her retirement date included 59 regular hours, 5 overtime hours, 4 vacation hours and 7 sick hours.

In 2007, there was only one (1) town board meeting on May 9th that would have been a little less than a month prior to her retirement. No mention of her impending retirement at that meeting. The next meeting was on June 13th, after her retirement, and there again no mention of her retirement and no resolution to re-appoint Ms. Fairbrother. According to her timesheets, she either worked, took vacation or used sick time along with overtime everyday prior to the June 13th town board meeting and continued to log hours worked every day thereafter.

Question is...since there is no resolution for her retirement and she has not formally been re-appointed is she retired and allowed to collect her pension or not?

The Town bookkeeper is an appointment of the town supervisor and she serves at the pleasure of the town supervisor. She does not have to take a civil service test to get the job, in fact, a town supervisor can appoint his spouse if he so chooses. Because Ms. Fairbrother was appointed, she does not qualify as an employee under the definition of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Of course, that would be what we found in an Opinion Letter of the State Comptroller, the one who is, according to Mr. Tyksinski, only right 50% of the time.

In 2008, at the request of Earle Reed and Attorney Gerald Green, Attorney Michael Sciotti, from Hancock and Estabrooke in Syracuse, billed the town $2,000 for an opinion letter outlining why he felt that Ms. Fairbrother is entitled to the overtime [that would be right after former Town Attorney Green billed the town for two years worth of research on the matter to the tune of approximately $3,400].

According to Attorney Sciotti's page on the firm's website, he is "the leader of the Firm's Labor and Employment practice group"; his page also lists one of his areas of practice as the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to his opinion, Ms. Fairbrother is due overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act because:
1. she does not regularly direct the work of two or more employees
2. she does not have the authority to hire and fire, etc.
3. her input has been given little input over the years as to hiring and firing
4. she performs rather "standard" day to day activities and does not appear to customarily and regularly exercise discretionary power
5. she has no advanced degree
6. she does not provide work in a specialized area
7. her work was, and still is, rather routine in nature
Not bad pay for someone who supposedly, according to Attorney Sciottit, has no formal training who merely does the work she is told to do with little or no input as to how to do it, eh? We bet that Earle and Jerry "forgot" to tell Attorney Sciotti that Ms. Fairbrother holds an appointed position of an elected official...thus making her exempt according to the Oneida County Civil Service job description we were handed when we FOILed it from the town clerk.

On June 25, 2010, Concerned Citizens filed a lawsuit in the Oneida County Clerk's office regarding the 2008 overtime payment of $71,000.

On July 8, 2010, Concerned Citizens filed a Notice of Claim with the Town Clerk regarding the "quiet" retirement of Ms. Fairbrother.

We would love your opinion on one or both subjects [overtime/retirement] either by commenting on this blog or emailing us.

Or you can contact the town supervisor's office by dialing (315)733-7500 x2332 or sending him an email. We are sure he would like to hear your thoughts.

OR


ALBANY, N.Y. (April 1, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his investigation into the manipulation of salary and overtime payments that leads to inflated pensions at the expense of taxpayers, known as “pension padding” or “pension spiking,” has expanded to include more than two dozen additional localities across New York state....[more]

The Attorney General’s office urges individuals with knowledge of any questionable pension padding practices to contact the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau by telephone at 212-416-8090 or by email.

19 comments:

man said...

Cathy,

I have got to commend you for your excellent reporting of the Town of New Hartford and their on-going shenanigans.

I am deeply upset with Supervisor Tyksinski over his laxness in taking action in these and related matters.

Mr. Tyksinski has refused to reduce the NH Police Department and instead of eliminating the leased vehicle formally driven by Raymond Philo - Chief of Police; he turns around and leases a brand new SUV for the new police chief - Inserra.

What the hell is going on here:

Well, I hope your readers take the time to read your blog. I too, would like to offer my assistance by providing the names of NYS investigative agencies.

Your readers can just click on anyone of them and let our State Government know how bad things continue to be in New Hartford, New York.

E-mail addresses:

'Investigations@osc.state.ny.us';
'inspector.general@ig.state.ny.us';

'localgov@osc.state.ny.us';

public.integrity@ag.ny.gov

Anonymous said...

Maybe Earl Reed is telling the truth that he was in the dark. He spent more time in Jupiter FL instead of attending to the town. The next person who should be questioned is then Deputy Town Supervisor Dave Reynolds. He was actually running the town under Earl Reed.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Fairbrother has gamed the system and she is an out and out thief.
As usual our elected officials are playing the same old games about not knowing what is going on.Reed /Tyksinski it does not seem to make an iota of difference they are the same person.

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

What Ms. Fairbrother has done is illegal. She collected overtime she was not entitled to in order to pad her pension for a retirement that was not done by the rules. She is not an innocent bystander and neither are the town officials and employees who enabled her to get away with it for the past 3 years.

Please everyone, send a message that this will not be tolerated; take the time to write to the Attorney General, State Comptroller and/or the Town Supervisor.

Anonymous said...

Gee, i cant wait to see Ms.Cooper's reaction to all of this good information!! Also, i would like to ask Ms.Krupa where she was when all of this was going on....beind a rock....not very likely. No wonder town employees r all upset over all the FOIL inquiries they have been getting. I have the feeling that this finding is only the tip of the iceberg. And the tax payers r certainly entitled to an investigation by the Attorney General's office to see what has and is going on in the Town of New Hartford. These shenanigans have to STOP, we have HAD ENOUGH. Also, i agree with what the O.D. had to say about Supervisor Tyksinski today...."He had better watch his mouth". The deal with the Police Department about not reducing the force and leasing a BRAND NEW SUV for the new Police Chief certainly does not go along with all his promises he set forth when running for the office of Town Supervisor. Selecting a new Police Chief was also looked at as a "shady deal" or a "back room" deal!! New Hartford is certainly in a mess not only over money,but also finding people who can be trusted on the Town Board. Obviously electing Mr. Tyksinski as Town Supervisor has not and probably will not solve our problems. An investigation by our Attorney General is IN ORDER and the sooner the better. Enough is enough!!!!

Anonymous said...

Talk about GREED!!! the bookkeeper retired in order to return to the same job same money the to retire is to make room for someone else Who needs a job to help raise a family pay a mortgage. there are plenty of people in New Hartford out of work that would be happy with this job at less pay. DO the right thing and resign! Carol Show us that you are not a GREEDY person get out of the Way!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have to totally agree with what the man said. NHPD is supposed to be reduced and yet they hire a part time officer and promote one to Sergeant. The chief certainly makes enough money to buy his own vehicle. What other "perks" does he receive?

Inquiring Mind said...

Is Mrs. Fairbrother receiving Social Security benefits to?

How much does this add to her annual pay received from all sources?

Anonymous said...

Me thinks that Ms. Fairchild must be working on a SECOND pension. I do not think that there is anything written that would preclude her from doing this,seeing she was hired a second time!! My she sure is thinking all the time isn't she??? Someone ought to check this out.

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

Believe me we are checking everything.

We know for a fact that she is still listed on the town's health insurance, but we believe that absent a town board resolution she was never really re-hired as an employee. However, notice she wasted no time in using town benefits; she used sick time on the first day of her retirement.

As far as her pension and whether the town is still paying toward that...we are trying to find out. Certainly, if she is no longer being reported to the Comptroller on the report that has to be filed every month, someone in the town knew she retired and failed to notify the town board.

No matter how you look at it, Ms. Fairbrother did not do this on her own; she had help from others in town government.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Fairbrother must either be the most savvy user of the pension system or she is just being used as a pawn in a felonious scheme to defraud the system. I vote for the latter. Question is who are the puppet masters?

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

Who are the puppet masters?

We probably don't have to look much further than Reed, Reynolds and Green!

Isn't is coincidental that the town's rainy day fund was being spent at a record pace? And who would have been the one person that could have blown them in?

Anonymous said...

I would also remind everyone that Christina KRUPA is also to blame and consider a "puppet master."

After all, it was Krupa-the-CPA who told the public that she would work closely with Mowat and Fairbrother to find out where the millions were spent.

Why have we not received a single report or explanation?! Krupa, Mowat, Fairbrother, and Basile... All of them were charged (or volunteered in Krupa's case) to figure out the town's fiscal woes and not a single explanation, just more finger pointing and a thicker plot is uncovered by CC!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Town should have the water tested at Butler Hall.

Didnt take long for the New supervisor to get the same sickness that the previous one had and revert to all the typical NH crap that has been going on for years.

Too bad there are so few who will speak up and want to do anything. Everyone else sits and says, oh well.

Anonymous said...

And to think former Supervisor Kazanjian was indicted in a heartbeat for what, having a town employee install a door or drop off some stones or something--with a total cost to the taxpayer of about $300. Forget the AG, where is the DA on this?

Anonymous said...

Running with earl reed, and having lunch with judge dwyer and judge donalty.

Anonymous said...

People, please... you don't know the half of it!! There are state pensioners everywhere who collect fabulous pensions and then return to the workforce as "interim" school superintendents,principals, athletic directors, etc. The list goes on and on! Dig deeper and watch your outrage grow!!!

Anonymous said...

I commend CC for all your hard work but believe me NOTHING will be investigated. The A.G. Will not get involved and the DA will not touch this. Don't hold your breath. Fairbrother was very sneaky and has taken the taxpayers for a ride. Sit down and hang on the rides not over !!!

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

Anonymous said: "... the DA will not touch this."

We know that only too well. McNamara has been contacted several times over the past few years and he turns a blind eye. Pretty sad; he takes the time to go after someone for a letter, but not for some of the blatant illegal shenanigans in New Hartford.

It probably helps that he is a running partner of Earle Reed and Earle gave him $1,600 for his campaign. Gee isn't Earle a Republican and McNamara a Democrat?