Two individuals facing charges related to the use of town equipment to fill and grade the parking area at the West Albany Rod and Gun Club have yet to decide whether to honor the town supervisor’s request to open the doors at their hearings, which are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 20, and Thursday, Aug. 21, but a union representative said such a move was unlikely.
Public Works Operations Supervisor William Neeley and Highway Maintenance Supervisor Thomas Romano were not available for comment, nor was their attorney, but according to United Public Service Employees Union Regional Coordinator Kathy Wright, who spoke on behalf of the parties, the decision to open the hearing doors to the public would solely be up to Neeley, Romano and their attorney.
In terms of past experiences we’ve had, we’ve never had an open door on a disciplinary action. The town should be very cautious about throwing out suggestions when it could come back and bite them, said Wright.
Wright said she was away from her office when the letter to UPSEU requesting the open hearings arrived, though she received it on Tuesday, Aug. 12. She called portions of the letter `absolutely appalling` and `unprofessional.`
In the letter, Supervisor Paula Mahan wrote, `On Aug. 7, 2008, the Albany Times Union reported your claim that the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the unanimous vote against Thomas Romano and William Neeley were politically motivated. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.`
The supervisor then wrote, `In order to address your concerns, and in order to insure to both your membership and the taxpayers of the town of Colonie that the disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Romano and Mr. Neeley were brought on proper grounds, I call upon you to consent to have the hearings on the disciplinary charges open to the public and the media. A full and open disciplinary hearing will allow the public and your members to determine whether the charges against Mr. Romano and Mr. Neeley are fully grounded in the Civil Service Law or are, as you claim, politically motivated.`
Wright said she faxed the town her response the same day she received the letter. According to Mahan, the town had not received the response.
Wright would not speak, specifically, about the charges against Neeley and Romano, but did say, `We’re fairly sure that it’s politically motivated. You have two long-term town employees who have spotless records and all of a sudden they’re being hung out to dry for something that was a big political piece for the supervisor to use to run for office.`
Mahan said the incident happened before she was in office, and for that reason it is not political.
`I had received some information that the union thought that this was political or something of that nature, and nothing could be further from the truth,` she said.
Mahan also said that she has no problems with Romano or Neeley, and that she feels a public hearing `would alleviate their fears that this had something to do with politics.` “