Who is Mr. Bashwinger really serving?

To the Editor:

It’s taken some time to digest the April 18 Enterprise article about Mr. Randy Bashwinger’s part-time job at the Albany County Board of Elections (“Berne’s highway super also holds part-time political job”). A number of statements were made in that article that, in the interest of full understanding, require more information or clarification. The situation is serious enough that a response is warranted.

Mr. Bashwinger was elected to the position of superintendent of highways. As an elected official in that position, he is almost completely autonomous. He is able to make and carry out decisions without additional input from the town board. He is responsible to no one, and, as he pointed out, he works for “the residents of the town.”

To whom is he accountable? The answer is simple, as he suggests: the residents, those taxpayers who pay his salary. He is responsible to the working public, who day in and day out, travel to and from their jobs, reporting for duty at their required time and place.

He is accountable to the “residents of the town,” but what do they really know of his work? How frequently does the public see the superintendent performing his duties? How much do they really know about the operation of a department that consumes more than half of the town’s annual budget?

Do they really know when he’s at work, and when he’s not? Even the town supervisor was unaware he had taken a second job at a time when responsibly he should have been at his first. In truth, the residents of the town know little of what Mr. Bashwinger actually does.

And what of his workers? They are accountable to him. But, what do they think when he goes off to a second job when he should be at the garage, working with them, and administering the department? What do they think when he continues to take his $53,270 salary for the full-time job though he’s at a second job, taking a second salary? How do they align his actions with their own work ethic? How does it affect the work they do?

Any good manager is a good leader. What does that mean? It means he must set a fine example, he must generate an environment for his employees that fosters a positive sense of belonging, he must express and demonstrate his concern for the quality of the jobs being performed and the individuals carrying out those tasks. First and foremost, he must responsibly meet his own obligations.

Is that what Mr. Bashwinger is doing when he does not show up each morning at the highway garage, and is absent for more than half the day?

Every other worker is expected to give his full attention to whatever job he holds, but, according to Rachel Bledi, the Republican commissioner, his job at the Albany County Board of Elections is flexible enough that he is able to keep tabs on the town highway department by taking calls or leaving early whenever he wishes.

If that is the case, it would seem that neither job is getting his full attention. Both are being cheated, and he’s cheating the taxpaying public by working two publicly-funded jobs at the same time.

Has any other highway superintendent abdicated his responsibility in this way? Not that we’re aware of.

It is sad to note that Mr. Bashwinger feels he has no need to fulfill the promise he made to voters when they elected him superintendent. It is sad to note that he feels comfortable compromising the role of superintendent.

It is sad to note that he is comfortable failing to show his workers the leadership any good worker needs. It is sad to note that he feels he owes nothing to the town board, or his public.

Ms. Bledi points out that Mr. Bashwinger is “not a nine-to-five guy; he has a large family and many kids to feed.” Is that meant to excuse him from the responsibility he took on when he ran for office? There are many people who are in the same situation, but they do not renege on their responsibilities as a result.

Mr. Bashwinger is correct in that the town board has no authority over him, but we do have a fiscal responsibility to the town and its residents. Mr. Bashwinger has a secretary, and a deputy, each of whom is paid by the taxpayers of the town.

He earns $53, 270 a year. When he asked for a 18-percent salary increase this year, a stunning and egregious increase met with disbelief by three town board members, and when instead the supervisor offered him a 10-percent raise, it seemed excessive and out of step with the needs of our community. It seems even more so now, knowing that at least half the working day is spent at another job.

It is easy to make light of the arrangements Mr. Bashwinger has made. The deputy highway superintendent, who makes only $2,000 annually for that position, implements assignments. He oversees the workforce. He greets visitors, the public, and vendors alike.

The secretary keeps his work in order, filing records, and filling out reports. When the deputy was asked at a town board meeting if he needed Mr. Bashwinger at the garage, he said “No. we don’t need him.” Mr. Bashwinger himself responded in kind, saying, that no, they did not need him.

If that is the case, then Sue Hawkes-Teeter’s letter to the Enterprise editor in the May 2 edition (“Highway super’s second job is unethical and unfair to Berne taxpayers”), made an important assessment: “...maybe the job of highway superintendent is really a part-time job.”

Maybe. We don’t know. We don’t know when he really arrives at the town garage to carry out his duties after traveling to and from his 8:30-to-12:00 job, or whether or not the department truly needs him.

Mr. Bashwinger, states, “I don’t work for the board,” and uses that as justification for taking a second job at a time when he should be performing his first. He goes on to say, “I work for the residents of the town.”

But how is taking a second job at a time when he should be at his first, serving the residents of the town? How does taking their hard-earned money for a job he attends only half the working day, serving the public? It is not.

It would seem that Mr. Bashwinger is ignorant of the source of his income. It would seem that he has little regard for those who fund it, for the very public he says he serves. The old phrase — it’s public service, not self-service — comes to mind. The question must be asked:

Who is Mr. Bashwinger really serving?

Karen Schimmer


Dawn G. Jordan


Berne Town Council

Editor’s note: Randy Bashwinger, in addition to being Berne’s high superintendent, is also chairman of the Berne Republican Party. Karen Schimmer and Dawn G. Jordan are Democratic members of the Berne Town Board.

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