By Mark Reynolds
The issue of a municipal bookkeeper for the town was brought up at last week’s Lloyd Town Board meeting. Councilman Joe Mazzetti said in the past the position was an appointment by the Supervisor, which impacted the previous bookkeeper.
“The problem was that she felt that she worked for the Supervisor and not for the Town Board and that didn’t put the best interests of the town forward,” he said. “So when we created the municipal position the whole idea of that was this person would work for the town, not as an appointment, and be fearful that, if the Supervisor was not happy with them or a new Supervisor came in, they would lose their job and somebody new would be reappointed.”
Mazzetti said the position should be Civil Service in order to eliminate any uncertainty that they could be summarily dismissed. He recalled that previously the entire Town Board was concerned about this scenario. Councilwoman Claire Winslow said she understands the concerns, but the board did not move forward with making the bookkeeper a Civil Service position. Mazzetti pointed out that the individual is working in an interim position, with Supervisor Fred Pizzuto ‘agreeing to disagree,’ noting that at the reorganization meeting in early January, the position will be clearly delineated.
Mazzetti said, “having a person that valuable as an appointment is not in the best interest of the taxpayers and the town.” He said the Town Board has the authority to eliminate the position as an appointment.
Winslow wondered why Mazzetti was focusing on this issue, “because we’re in a good spot [financially] with everything,” but agreed there may be uncertainty, “down the road.” Mazzetti responded that regardless of the outcome of an election and whether or not a new Supervisor comes in, the Town Board should ensure stability in the bookkeeper position.
“Remember with the person that was there how fearful she was about losing her job, about making the Supervisor mad, about not giving us information and we don’t want to travel down that road. I think that the person we want to put in the position is the most qualified but that person needs to have security in that job. It’s a Civil Service title and that’s why we did that. None of us are going to be around forever, so we need to make sure that we protect people when we put them in a position.”
Town attorney Sean Murphy said the Supervisor has the option of making the position an appointment, with Mazzetti reminding him that the board made a resolution to change the title to Municipal Bookkeeper, which eliminated it as an appointment.
Pizzuto said the right of it being an appointment was not eliminated but instead the attempt was to make it a Civil Service position, “but then it never left here under the last secretary and never got filed with the town...It was last year and it never went anyplace.” He pointed out that the Town Board cannot override New York State law; “the law gives me both of those appointments,” citing New York State Consolidated Town Law, section 15 that allows the Town Supervisor to designate a bookkeeper or a confidential secretary or both in towns with a population of more than 10,000.
Attorney Murphy said the Town Board, however, does have the option of voting by a majority to make the bookkeeper a Civil Service position. The discussion failed to clarify the fate of this position in the future, with Mazzetti reminding the board that keeping the bookkeeper as an appointed position does not provide that individual with job security.
Pizzuto explained the pitfalls of changing bookkeepers.
“If someone gets elected and thought he was going to get rid of any bookkeeper that’s doing the job with all the talent and knowledge it takes to do the job, it would be suicidal,” he said.
Winslow agreed, noting the unlikelihood that a new Supervisor would take that action, given the complexity and the skills needed to do the job properly.
Murphy said replacement by an incoming Supervisor would be unusual but he or she does have the right to appoint a new confidential secretary and a new bookkeeper and the Town Board only sets the salaries.
Building Department Director Dave Barton suggested that the Supervisor retain the right to appoint a full time bookkeeper but the Town Board should also hire another full time Civil Service bookkeeper position just to keep up with the ongoing and growing amount of paperwork that passes through that office. Pizzuto said the board will have to see if the town has funding for a second full time position.