Broadalbin highway department dispute dominates board meeting


Recorder News Staff

BROADALBIN -- Discussion at Tuesday night's Broadalbin Town Board meeting centered, once again, on the town's embattled highway department and the ramifications from Broadalbin Highway Superintendent Lance Winney's failure to comply with the town's procurement policy.

The board ultimately voted to table two bills submitted by Winney for payment citing a lack of detailed documentation supporting the validity of the work performed.

Broadalbin Town Supervisor Joe DiGiacomo questioned whether the board should even be forced to pay an $11,000 bill for crack sealing and a $4,000 for road striping, when Winney failed to received prior approval from the board before ordering the work performed.

"I hate to see the town paying for things after the fact," said DiGiacomo. "That's what the procurement policy is for."

"Maybe we need to revisit the purchasing policy and put more teeth into it," he added, noting that the policy currently includes no penalties if not strictly followed and therefore cannot thoroughly be enforced.

Broadalbin Town Attorney Kara Lais told the board that, while it is obvious that the work was performed illegally according to town policy, failure to pay the bill on principle would likely result in a civil suit brought by the injured parties that the town would likely lose.

"So, anybody here can go out and spend anything they want and we're going to be on the hook for it?" DiGiacomo queried in frustration.

The board also took action, of sorts, on Winney's continued refusal to follow procedures set in place with regards to the refueling of town trucks.

Previously, each truck was assigned a credit card and each highway employee a pin number, so that each could be monitored and accounted for when the trucks were refueled at the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District.

When Winney took office, however, Winney confiscated the credit cards, citing the need for greater accountability.

One card is now used for all the trucks and the employee must ask Winney for the card when a truck needs to be refueled.

Broadalbin Town Councilman Jim Wheeler said this system makes it impossible to accurately account for the fuel being used by each of the vehicles.

Wheeler and DiGiacomo said they have asked Winney several times to return to the original procedure, but to no avail.

"Using the school needs to be used as it was intended to be used," DiGiacomo said. "I just think we lost all accountability."

Wheeler said he will draft a letter to Winney, explaining, once again, why the policy was put in place and its significance.

"Let's put it in writing," said Wheeler. "This is the system that was developed. This is what you have to do, or don't go to the school."

DiGiacomo said he considers the biggest problem with Winney to be simply that the rules are not being followed.

"This board is the governing body," said DiGiacomo. "I don't think we need a rogue employee or elected official."

Several highway department employees and residents also used the opportunity to voice their frustrations with Winney's management.

"We do our job. He doesn't do his job," said highway department employee Dan Steele. "He has to get along with the town board. This man doesn't get a long with anybody."

"You ought to see it," added Bob Perry, another highway department employee. "You're chasing your tail with this guy trying to tell you what to do."

"He's screwing this town left and right," he added. "Whoever voted for him, you got what you deserve."

One resident blamed DiGiacomo for not taking a more active role in controlling Winney's expenditures.

"You have to be the leader of this community, Joe, and I don't see that happening," said the resident. "This issue has to get resolved."

DiGiacomo also informed residents Tuesday that a mediation session that had been scheduled to take place between with Winney was abruptly ended when Winney left the room just seconds into the meeting.

DiGiacomo said that Winney had requested a union representative for the highway department employees, but refused to meet when he realized that highway department employee and shop steward Leon Foss would serve in that capacity.

"It was to no avail. It was a total waste of money," DiGiacomo said. "Winney wanted it set up. We set it up and nothing happened."

"I'm not in favor of wasting any more money," he added in response to a question about whether or not another mediation session would be scheduled. "Winney wasn't there 10 seconds. I was pretty disappointed in the outcome."

With regards to the ongoing differences between he parties, DiGiacomo said he saw little resolution.

"I think we have to move on with our business and he can move on with his business and leave it at that," DiGiacomo said.