DELMAR — Joyce Becker wanted a comprehensive look at the town’s employment structure before she voted on the appointment of an entry-level hire three weeks ago. Last week, she received a revised proposal for the same appointment.
It was enough to change the town board member’s mind as the board passed the appointment by a 3-0 vote on Wednesday, Feb. 24.
Three weeks ago, the town board was in the unusual position of a stalemate over the appointment of Katelyn Berger as a personnel assistant within the town’s human resources department. It just so happens Berger is the domestic partner of Town Board Member Jim Foster, its lone Republican.
Becker, a Democrat, had said her issue over the appointment was not over the candidate’s relationship with Foster. She initially raised concerns because she thought the town was under a hiring freeze. When the human resources department informed her that approved positions were still permitted to be filled, she nonetheless abstained after suggesting the town reassess staffing needs.
Berger’s appointment was added to the agenda again, immediately following the appointment of three officers to the town’s police department. Each was accepted unanimously. Berger’s appointment however had been modified since it was first presented.
Instead of solely working under the human resource’s department, she would split time in a hybrid position under the comptroller’s supervision and shared with human resources. Becker praised the solution as “forward thinking” before announcing she would vote yes.
“I refer to this position as a first in a robust, in-nature, change in future planning. In other words, a strong and healthier approach to filling the needs in the event of retirement or illnesses of employees in either of the mentioned departments,” Becker said.
Becker’s vote proved to be the linchpin securing approval of Berger’s appointment. It came to be from a suggestion by Town Comptroller Michael Cohen.
“After the last meeting, it was evident that members of the town board were interested in reevaluating the organizational structure of town administration,” Cohen stated in his memo to the board. “The hybrid position would enable cross training between the two departments’ responsibilities, notably accounts payable, cash receipts, payroll, and benefits administration. This cross-training would make the two departments more resilient and robust and will enable us to make an effective decision on staffing at budget time.”
The revised proposal chipped enough away from the previous stalemate created by three abstensions.
Foster continued to recuse himself based on his relationship with Berger. Without further explanation, Cunningham continued to abstain. She had previously expressed varying concerns ranging from nepotism to security. She said she worried over having someone related to a board member having access to sensitive employee information.
Berger’s position will fall under the town comptroller’s supervision. Her workspace, however, will be in the human resources department.