Knox transfer station down to three workers; motion to hire illegally fired worker fails

Enterprise file photo — H. Rose Schneider

Jeremy Springer, left, is pictured in 2019 when he started his job at the Knox transfer station, talking to Gary Salisbury who at the time was the town’s highway superintendent and Republican Party chairman. Springer quit his job this month.

KNOX — In an attempt to fix what he sees as a staff shortage at the Knox transfer station — as well as a moral stigma for the town — Supervisor Russell Pokorny made a motion this week to hire, as transfer station supervisor, Richard Dexter, who had been illegally fired from his job at the town’s transfer station in 2019.

Pokorny’s motion did not receive a second from a board that has largely stood by the town’s decision in 2019 to fire not just Dexter, but two other workers without supplying a reason.

In the case of Dexter and Joseph Adriance, who had each worked at the transfer station for at least five years, that firing was illegal, according to the Albany County Department of Civil Service, and the two men sued the town before reaching a settlement last year. 

Pokorny told The Enterprise this week that the transfer station is down to three workers following Jeremy Springer’s recent resignation. Springer is one of the three workers who replaced the fired ones, and is also the son of board member June Springer, though she was not on the board in 2019. Springer was a “site supervisor” as of this January.

Only one worker is currently available to work all hours the transfer station is open. One of the three workers handles transportation of material, and fills in as an attendant when necessary. Another wants to work only limited hours, and is currently working more than he wishes to, Pokorny said. 

Pokorny has repeatedly said that he doesn’t feel the transfer station is a safe environment to work alone in, and would like to have two workers on weekdays and three on Saturdays. The station is open from 4 to 8 p.m on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

At this week’s board meeting, Pokorny praised Dexter’s “maturity, background, and stability” before explaining that he thinks Dexter should be rehired, in part because “it would be reasonable for us to give him his job back, which he really shouldn’t have lost in the first place.” 

No board member gave a direct reason for not wanting to rehire Dexter, with board member Dennis Cyr merely pointing out that he had collected five applications for the vacancy. Cyr also wondered if Dexter would be up to speed with the new standard operating procedure, which was devised while Springer was working there.

Pokorny’s motion ultimately died without a second, which he called “disappointing” after the meeting. 

Cyr, who oversees the transfer station as deputy supervisor, indicated after the motion failed that he and Councilman Ken Saddlemire would try to get interviews done before the next meeting so that they can fill the vacancy as soon as possible, but said that the transfer station workers are “OK right now.”

The board went on to briefly discuss the feasibility of a daily town-wide trash pickup program and formed a committee to look into it further.



When the three workers were fired in January 2019, they said they had been given no reason and had not been told in advance that they were being replaced.

This past January, when Pokorny proposed hiring the three fired workers as alternates, Jeremy Springer told the board that the reason for three workers’ terminations was allegations of various improprieties, including theft and bullying. The three former workers declined to comment on the allegations when reached by The Enterprise in January. One said he had been advised not to comment because of pending litigation.

Pokorny — a Democrat who was elected last year to replace Republican-backed Vasilios Lefkaditis, who transformed the once fully-Democratic board into an engine of allies during his time in office — made a statement at last month’s town board meeting that defended the three workers, whom he said he knows personally. He said that the town should apologize to the workers, though no apology was made.

Pokorny said he had investigated the matter and reported, “It goes back to a feud between the transfer station and the town garage regarding management and transportation of the garbage.”

Pokorny said he had looked into allegations of mishandling money or property and concluded, “I can say unequivocally that there is no evidence of this.”

In response to Pokorny’s comments last month, June Springer read a prepared statement this week that criticized the way her son was treated after he submitted his resignation letter and defended her own position regarding the three fired workers, whom she had learned about through executive sessions as the town was negotiating legal maneuvers. 

Springer said that, although the details of what was discussed in the executive sessions are privileged, the vote to accept the settlement is publicly recorded, and that the settlement should have squashed the issue. 

 “Each of the three boards [during the transfer station ordeal] made decisions by majority vote,” Springer said. “I will not apologize for nor attempt to explain any decisions made by any prior board. When someone is not a sitting board member, they’re not allowed the privilege of executive session and because of that simple fact, they cannot make an informed decision.”

While the state’s Open Meetings Law allows an elected board to discuss certain matters in private, including firing employees, the law does not require it.

The board that fired the three workers was made up of former board members Lefkaditis, Dennis Barber, and Earl Barcomb, along with current board members Karl Pritchard and Saddlemire, who were elected alongside Lefkaditis. Barber and Barcomb, both Democrats, voted against the firings because they were unsure how they were justified and criticized their last-minute nature. 

The board that accepted the settlement between the town and two of the workers was made up of Lefkaditis, Pritchard, Saddlemire, Springer, and Cyr. Like Pritchard and Saddlemire, Springer and Cyr were also elected with Lefkaditis.

Lefkaditis confirmed for The Enterprise that accusations of theft and bullying had “factored into” his decision to replace the workers. Last year, Saddlemire told The Enterprise that “a series of events and comments, which led to complaints, prompted meetings to address [the] issues. The board decided to replace the transfer-station employees after a pattern of behavior kept repeating.”

Pritchard also said last year that “there was a reason I voted in favor” of replacing the workers. 

No one who was part of that original vote was willing to discuss specific complaints or evidence.

On the topic of her son’s resignation, Springer said that Jeremy Springer sent a letter of resignation to the town board, giving the town two weeks’ notice to find his replacement and expecting to end his job on Thursday, April 14.

On Tuesday, April 5, at 8 a.m., he received a text saying that April 2 was his last day and to turn his keys in during town office hours, she said. 

“This text was sent and the decision was made without any attempt to contact Jeremy to discuss anything,” Springer said. “Only after I called Russ was there any attempt to call Jeremy and speak with him.”

Springer went on to say that the treatment of her son was “very unprofessional.” 

Pokorny told The Enterprise after the meeting that the text in question would have been sent by Cyr, whom The Enterprise could not immediately reach. Jeremy Springer also could not immediately be reached. 

Pokorny said that Springer’s resignation seemed to have to do with his relationship with Cyr and the other transfer station workers. Pokorny also said that, when he spoke to Springer after Cyr allegedly told him not to come in for his next shifts, Springer said he’d “just as soon be done right now.”

In his resignation letter, which The Enterprise obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, Springer singled out Cyr’s position toward him as his reason for leaving the job.

“As you know, over the last couple of years, there has been many differences of opinion regarding the processes, work assignments, and goals for the Transfer Station,” Springer wrote. “I always felt we were on the right path at the Transfer Station but This ongoing conflict and lack of support under the Deputy Supervisor has affected my ability to manage the facility and has left me and many of my direct reports feeling uncertain about the future of the Transfer Station.

“It is clear to me due to the inconsistent participation and minimal efforts that we will not be able to resolve our differences,” the letter goes on. “Therefore, I feel that resigning is the best option for me and for the town of Knox. Preventing the possibility of another unfortunate event surrounding Transfer Station Personnel.”

Springer concluded his letter by offering to meet with any interested member of the town board to make sure the transfer station “has all its ducks in a row.”

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