Dolce steps up as supervisor, Wood appointed to town council

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
John Dolce is sworn in as supervisor by Town Clerk Victoria Kraker at the final meeting of 2018 for the Rensselaerville Town Board. Dolce, who had previously been the deputy supervisor, was appointed after former supervisor Steve Pfleging admitted to embezzling town funds and resigned from his post.

RENSSELAERVILLE — Last month’s resignation and subsequent grand-larceny arrest of Steve Pfleging, who had been Rensselaerville’s supervisor for about a year, has prompted leadership changes for the town.

At the town board’s final meeting of 2018, on Thursday night, Deputy Supervisor John Dolce, a Democrat like Pfleging, resigned as a town councilman and was appointed supervisor by the other three board members: Jason Rauf, a Republican; Marion Cooke, a Conservative; and Margaret Sedlmeir, an Independence Party member.

Rauf, who like Pfleging had been elected to his first term last November, was appointed deputy supervisor in Dolce’s place.

Democrat Brian Wood, a town zoning board member and the former captain of the Albany County Sheriff’s Emergency Medical Services division, was appointed councilman after resigning from the zoning board.

Dolce, a Queens native, began serving on the town board in 2016 when the late Robert Bolte, a Conservative, resigned because of health problems. Dolce was then elected to the seat in an unopposed contest that same year. The owner of a self-storage service, auto repair shop, and motorsports store, he also purchased the defunct Westerlo resort Shepard Farm and is leasing the land to host solar arrays.

Dolce told The Enterprise that he is not sure if he will run next November to remain supervisor. He said he took on the role to ensure the town would continue to have a leader.

“In the past, a lot of people have abandoned the town,” he said.

Rauf, a mechanic who runs a small farm with his wife, said during his 2017 campaign that he wanted the town to have a financially sound future. Rauf grew up in Rensselaerville.

Wood is the son of former Councilman Gerald Wood, who did not run for reelection in 2017. As captain of the sheriff’s Emergency Medical Service division, Brian Wood oversaw the town’s transition to having county EMS coverage after the Rensselaerville Volunteer Ambulance closed due to a lack of volunteers.

His brother Dennis Wood now serves in the role after Brian Wood was promoted in October to become director of the Emergency Management Unit in the sheriff’s office, which oversees the EMS division.

Brian Wood told The Enterprise he has served on the zoning board for three or four years. He said he has always been involved in public service and is a lifetime Rensselaerville resident.

“This is a good opportunity,” he said, of his move to the town board. He said that he would consider running for re-election depending on his initial experience as a councilman.

Wood was also an applicant for town justice last year after Judge Dwight T. Cooke resigned, and the board had intended to appoint him before the state’s Judicial Board of Ethics deemed it a conflict of interest due to his position with the sheriff’s office.

 

Changes in handling town finances

Dolce said at the Dec. 27 meeting that he wants to separate the position of supervisor from what he sees as tasks for the town’s bookkeeper such as signing off on payroll checks.

“That’s not a supervisor’s job … ,” he said. “The supervisor’s job — it shouldn’t be a bookkeeper’s position.”

Dolce said at the meeting that he wants to have Rensselaerville hire a payroll service to add another safeguard to the town’s finances. He later told The Enterprise that he would also like to install time clocks.

Pfleging, while serving as supervisor, had written checks to himself from the town’s checking account amounting to about $13,000, according to New York State Police. He was charged with grand larceny and falsifying business records, both felonies, and official misconduct, a misdemeanor.

Dolce had said earlier this month that Pfleging had been responsible for signing the checks as well as reviewing bank account statements; the missing funds were noticed by the town’s accounting firm months later.

The missing funds dominated the Dec. 27 meeting not only with the appointments, but also as the board discussed whether the town should renew its contract with the accounting firm, Pattison, Koskey, Howe and Bucci.

“The problem started in February and they found it in December,” said Dolce, of the embezzled money, who said he has been “getting vague answers” from the firm on how the issue occurred. He also said that the firm is expecting payment of $20,000 for its work.

Other board members said they worried about “cutting ties with them,” but agreed a meeting was needed before renewing a contract with the accounting firm.

“I’m not crucifying our accountants,” said Dolce, who said that part of the reason the firm did not spot the missing funds immediately was because Pfleging had been withholding information from the accountants.

Dolce said he had, since Pfleging’s arrest, traveled to the accounting firm to speak with the accountants, bringing Pfleging with him to discuss the missing funds.

“It was very uncomfortable,” he said, of picking up the former supervisor.

The board agreed unanimously to ask the state comptroller’s office to conduct what Dolce described as an “in-house audit.” Rensselaerville had received a highly critical state audit in 2013 and a favorable one in 2016.

Dolce said representatives from the office would meet with the town board at its Jan. 8 working meeting. Rauf said he had also reached out to Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners who would also be attending.

The board also unanimously agreed to keep the town’s books for 2018 open until Feb. 28, 2019.

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