Town board not told of highway workers’ year-round, three-day weekends

To the Editor:

The agenda of the Berne Town Board meeting for the June 17 meeting included: g) Discuss/Approve MOA’s for collective bargaining agreement.

The supervisor decided not to discuss this, but the deputy supervisor had other ideas and decided to refer to some email comments regarding the lack of transparency in the processing of these two memorandums of agreement. 

In one of his inappropriate, out-of-context attacks, the deputy supervisor called out a board member for using the word “sleazy” in an email to describe the way the supervisor secretly engaged the town in illegitimate union agreements (MOAs) and failed to provide copies to the town clerk to put them on the town record. The context needs to be explained:

Inappropriate backroom agreements with the union were made to secretly amend the 2017-to-2019 “Collective Bargaining Agreement.” One of these poorly crafted, illegitimate MOA agreements attempted to revise this part: Section 7.1.3 — Summer Compressed Workweek.

Unfettered control of scheduling three-day weekends has been a hot-button political goal of the Berne GOP chairman and this secret deal with a union rep by the supervisor was the fulfillment of the GOP chairman’s ridiculous “Berne Lives Matter” campaign promise to the employees, in my opinion.

It appears to me that the GOP chairman is the one supervising the town. It’s no longer surprising that in an email on March 12, 2018, the supervisor suggested that the GOP chairman should be seated at the table with the town board at its monthly meetings.

The legitimate, legally adopted 2017-19 agreement allows for three-day weekends for the highway workers “during the period beginning the third Sunday of June and ending labor day.” This very specific language is necessary in such an agreement.

But the supervisor’s illegitimate MOA instead states: “The Superintendent of Highways may schedule an employee to work four ten-hour days, Monday through Thursday.”  This backroom deal removes any calendar limitations and gives the GOP chairman unfettered control to enact three-day weekends for town employees at any time.

And now it appears that the employees could be compensated with overtime because they worked 10-hour days this spring outside those calendar limitations. And it also appears to me, based on my interpretation of section 9.1.2,  every week with a holiday during this schedule would give employees four-day weekends and three-day work weeks.  

Don’t forget that employees get well-deserved vacation time so consider those days as well. This all appears to me to be an attempt to buy the political support of the employees and their friends and families.

These illegitimate MOAs did not involve negotiation with the union on behalf of the town’s best interests. A campaign promise was simply processed into flawed documents and signed into law by the supervisor without even advising the board that this town agreement took place.

Then no copy or record of the MOA agreements was on file at the town hall until June 4, 2019 when Councilmember [Karen] Schimmer started asking questions. The agreement was signed by the supervisor on Aug. 23, 2018 — last year.

In my opinion, every attempt was made to hide these ill-conceived agreements from the board and the public until it was too late to do anything about them. 

I think we have a very serious, very deliberate lack of transparency regarding a number of actions taken by the supervisor. I didn’t choose the word “sleazy” to describe this inappropriate conduct but I can’t argue with that assessment.

Put in context, “sleazy” appears accurate. We simply cannot trust that the supervisor is not engaging the town in poorly-crafted, politically-motivated, legally-binding agreements without our knowledge and we certainly cannot take what the deputy supervisor says at face value. Don’t believe this was all a mistake – I’m sure it was not.

Joel Willsey


Berne Town Board

Editor’s note: See related story.

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