Last-minute pleading and a resolution weren’t enough to stay the replacement of scores of Republican appointments as Democrats filled town posts during the 2008 organizational meeting Thursday, Jan. 3.
It was the first meeting ever in Colonie with a Democratic majority at the helm.
Incumbent Republicans Nicole Criscione-Szesnat, Brian Hogan and Tom With, with lists of the 19 appointments in hand, asked that they be given the opportunity to review the qualifications of some appointees. The Democrats insisted that all appointees were experienced and that appointments needed to be done as soon as possible so town government can move forward.
It’s not that we are opposing anybody; we want to be better informed, said Criscione-Szesnat during the board’s pre-meeting discussions. She handed a draft resolution to newly appointed Town Attorney Michael Magguilli, pitching the `Town Hall Integrity Act of 2008.`
The draft sought to provide town board members more time to review the records and qualifications of the appointees.
Democrats weren’t swayed.
In addition to the many appointments being made directly to the supervisor’s office, which is a right exercised by previous administrations, the others are more than qualified for the jobs, said Supervisor Paula Mahan.
`These appointments were made as a new government comes into power in combination with you guys that are (already) here. It’s different. It has never been done this way before,` Mahan said.
According to Mahan, the process leading up to the appointments was wrought with misinformation as to who did what on committees, term limits and qualifications under the old Republican administration. In some instances, committee and board members who were deceased were still on the books. The process of reviewing what needed changing in Colonie took longer than anticipated, she said. The appointments that were made were selected based on qualifications and their abilities to change the town’s course. It was six months of work done in four weeks, Mahan said.
Mahan refused to delay the appointments despite written objections from Republicans leading up to the meeting.
`I know you’re upset. I read your letter,` Mahan said to Criscione-Szesnat.
`And you ignored it, as well as our responsibility for due diligence,` Criscione-Szesnat responded.
The tone eventually changed during the course of the public meeting, and the Republican minority voted against only a portion of the 19 appointments. Those voted against included the replacement to the town’s two vehicle and traffic prosecutors, termination of the human resource director position, held by Joyce Tarantino and termination of senior attorneys. Those attorneys were replaced with Richard P. Jacobson. Magguilli was appointed 4-to-3, Republicans opposing.
The minority took issue with the Democrats’ waving of the town’s pay scale for new hires and paying Magguili $105,530, more than $20,000 above what most new department heads receive when they first come on board.
Criscione-Szesnat raised concerns that, as the town enters into negations with bargaining units, an unwanted precedent could be set.
However, Magguilli’s pay is part of a larger plan to cut costs, argued Democrats.
Several positions in the town were either combined or cut to save money, said Mahan. In other offices, as is the case of the town attorney’s office, duties such as counsel to several town review boards were brought back under control of the attorney’s office. That’s why Magguilli is being paid what he is, Mahan said.
Also, there is ongoing litigation in the town, other than past litigation that cost the town nearly half a million dollars, that Mahan would like to see resolved. Additionally, Democrats would like to avoid additional costly lawsuits, she said.
Other appointments include: Senior Town Attorney Richard P. Jacobson; assistant vehicle and traffic prosecutors, Stanley Segal and Frederick Altman; counsel to planning board, Peter F. Stuto; counsel to Zoning Board of Appeals, Michael J. Garry; assistant to supervisor/public information officer, Peter Gannon; confidential administrative aide to the supervisor, Alison McLean; confidential secretary to the supervisor, Christine Farley; Deputy Town Supervisor Nancy Hernandez; Director of Planning and Economic Development Joseph LaCivita; Town Comptroller Craig Blair; Department of Public Works Commissioner Robert Mitchell; and Town Historian Kevin Franklin.
Board and chair appointments include: planning board Chairwoman Jean Donovan; planning board members, Thomas Nardacci and Charles O’Rourke; Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman James Campbell; Board of Ethics Chairwoman Frances O’Rourke; Industrial Development Authority Chairman Mark Hannibal; Industrial Development Authority members, Kenneth Champagne, David DeLuca, William Wiley, Frederick Burgess, James McGuirk and Gary Rinaldi; and library trustees Matthew Sissman and Cynthia Dott.“