Highway Super sends letter asking for legal opinion on Supervisor’s authority

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider

Hand-scanner: Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger places his hand on a biometric scanner to demonstrate how it would read the back of an employee’s hand to clock in. Bashwinger has said the scanner is unnecessary since his workers also use paper time sheets, while Berne Town Supervisor Kevin Crosier said it prevents employees from clocking each other in.

BERNE — Berne’s Highway Superintendent, Randy Bashwinger, has sent a letter  to the town attorney asking for a legal opinion on the division of power between himself and the town supervisor, Kevin Crosier.

Crosier, a Democrat leading an all-Democratic town board, and Bashwinger, a Republican, have been battling for months.

The letter lists several actions taken by Crosier — the dismissal of highway employees without consulting Bashwinger, the use of a biometric time clock, and the installment of security cameras in the highway garage — and asks for an opinion on the legality of the actions or whether Crosier had the authority to do so. Conboy told The Enterprise that he was unable to comment.

The dismissal of highway employees refers to two workers who were laid off last March following Bashwinger’s assigning his workers four 10-hour-days in warm months, which he said saved money and was more efficient, while Crosier wanted to work five eight-hour days. The employees were later brought back, and in January talks were set to begin with a new union contract on whether the four-day workweek could continue.

The biometric time clock was installed in 2014 at the highway department. The device involves a user placing his hand on a panel and having a camera scan the back of it. Bashwinger has objected to its use because he says it’s inaccurate in its timekeeping, unsanitary, and not necessary as his workers still use handwritten time cards to clock in as well.

The handwritten time cards, said Bashwinger, are what the department uses for payroll. He is not sure why the times on the biometric clock are inaccurate, but said he suspects it is due to a device normally used for eight-hour-day timekeeping having members frequently clock in shifts longer than eight hours.

Crosier said he has not found the device to be inaccurate, but said he had it installed to prevent employees from punching one another in on time cards, noting that the state comptroller’s office had recommended the device to prevent this. Crosier also dismissed the idea of it being unsanitary, saying that, if there were concerns the town would provide hand sanitizer.

Bashwinger had also objected to the timeclock being used by only highway employees. Crosier said that park and transfer-station employees also use the timeclock, and that employees who work at Town Hall use a written time card.

The cameras in question have yet to be installed in the highway department, but some are already operating in other town buildings. Bashwinger said he had requested security cameras for the highway department after an employee was caught stealing equipment; but he objects to cameras being placed by the time clock and interior offices at the highway garage.

The letter also states that the video is relayed to the supervisor’s cell phone. Crosier said this was true, but said it also would be available on Bashwinger’s phone.

“We did exactly what he asked for,” said Crosier, referring to Bashwinger’s initial request for cameras.

In February, the town board had agreed to take a bid for security cameras from Keeplock Security Services and Tech Albany for $19,171 in total. The cameras were to be set up at the highway garage and pole barn, the transfer station, the sewer plant, the town hall and town court, and the town park.

Both men dismissed the others’ actions as political grandstanding; each said he was working to help the town while the other became entrenched in politics.

Bashwinger has said he could see this going to court, and that he suspects town attorney William Conboy would be unable to represent him due to the conflict of interest posed by Conboy’s position with the town, and that the town would have to pay for another lawyer to represent Bashwinger.

Crosier said that the town would not pay for another lawyer, and Bashwinger would have to pay for one himself if it got to that point.

 

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