Former assessor files to get his job back, seeks back pay in Westerlo

Peter Hotaling

Peter Hotaling


WESTERLO — After Westerlo replaced him as its assessor without following the proper procedures, Peter Hotaling is fighting to get his job back. 

On Dec. 12, Hotaling filed an Article 78 proceeding against the town and against William Bichteman, asking that he be reinstated and compensated for the pay he lost and the expenses he accrued after the town took away his medical insurance.

Bichteman is now Westerlo’s supervisor, having been elected to that post in November. He was the town’s acting supervisor, without a vote on the town board, when he led the initiative to replace Hotaling.

Article 78 is the article of New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules that allows individuals to challenge decisions made by administrative agencies, public bodies, or officers.

Hotaling would not comment on the litigation at the behest of his lawyer, James B. Tuttle of The Tuttle Law Firm, based in Clifton Park. Bichteman also declined to comment.

The filing with New York State Supreme Court in Albany County, the lowest rung of the state’s three-tiered system, states that Hotaling, who worked as Westerlo’s assessor for 19 years, was removed without a hearing nor notice of discipline or charges, and that the town violated section 75(c) of New York State Civil Service Law by removing him.

According to the law, non-competitive employees, which Hotaling was, who have maintained their position for at least five years can be removed only with cause. Hotaling had been unaware of this until The Enterprise wrote an editorial, “Did Peter Hotaling receive a hearing or an exit interview?,” on Oct. 10, 2019, pointing out the violation of Civil Service Law.

Westerlo’s town board had voted unanimously on Sept. 17 last year to advertise Hotaling’s position. Bichteman, as acting supervisor, assured the public that Hotaling would be able to apply for the job.

However, the job would no longer come with health insurance that Hotaling had come to rely on after hip surgery in 2018 generated a life-threatening infection that kept him in the hospital and in rehabilitation, and away from his office hours, for an extended period of time. However, Hotaling told The Enterprise earlier, he kept up with his work on a computer.

The Article 78 petition, states, “From the time he was hired on April 1, 2000 until October 1, 2019, Peter Hotaling performed all of his duties as the Assessor for the Town of Westerlo continuously and uninterruptedly, normal vacation and sick leave time excepted, until he was terminated effective October 1, 2019 … At the time of his termination, Petitioner Hotaling’s compensation consisted of $22,000 per year payable weekly and fully paid health insurance.”

After losing his insurance, Hotaling had to shoulder a monthly cost of $758.53, which he’s asking the town to reimburse. Hotaling’s term ended on Sept. 30, 2019, meaning the town would owe him four months worth of expenses so far, with the total depending on how long proceedings take.

Aside from saving on health-insurance costs, Bichteman’s primary thrust in replacing Hotaling at the time was that Hotaling didn’t maintain the office hours that the town assigns to its assessor. Westerlo’s first choice to replace Hotaling, Justin Maxwell, turned the position down because he did not want to keep those same hours. Ultimately, the town hired Garth Slocum, the only applicant apart from Hotaling and Maxwell. 

Slocum did not immediately respond to queries from The Enterprise.

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