By not having a dog-control officer, Berne is violating the law

To the Editor:

At the risk of being too negative, I am going to inform the public regarding why the town of Berne is still without a dog-control officer as is mandated by law. We have had a viable, experienced, qualified and willing candidate since the GOP-appointed, controversial DCO walked away from the job in April.

One may ask: Why are we operating in violation of the law with no DCO when we have had a viable candidate all along?

This position is not filled due to the extreme dysfunctionality of the GOP-controlled town board. The twice-canceled September meeting finally took place, but even then, only one elected GOP board member showed up and the GOP-appointed board member (and candidate), Mr. Leo Vane would not even consider offering the job to Cheryl Baitsholts under the terms and conditions of employment that were in place when she was illegally removed from office on Jan. 1, 2020.

Mr. Vane argued that he was trying to save tax dollars by demanding the DCO be paid two separate pay rates depending upon what time of day that person chooses to work. The proposed new terms of employment were never provided to the board for review.

What tasks would qualify for the $24-per-hour rate? Could the DCO do all the paperwork and other tasks at the $24-per-hour rate and avoid the $19-per-hour rate? Could she or he get a call and wait an hour to respond when the pay rate is $5 per hour more? Why not?

I was never asked to review these new terms and comment. That ridiculous, undefined, and uncontrolled pay structure would be the first thing I would question.

The GOP folks don’t want to be bothered with the details. They don’t often bother to even interview candidates.

They don’t want to waste their time with activities like printing out and documenting their proposals, board review of that document, consideration and discussion of the comments, and finally consideration of the inclusion of comments in the document.

The only publicly available documentation of the specific proposed terms of employment is found in meeting minutes that document the oral motion [Deputy Supervisor] Mr. [Dennis] Palow made to appoint the only candidate.

That candidate was not provided a copy of the new terms of employment as requested, but the GOP majority appointed her anyway. In what universe does this make sense?

I told them I had bothered to talk to her, and she was not interested in the job under those terms. Then the GOP majority insisted she should come to a board meeting where Mr. Palow could grandstand and explain the terms of employment instead of documenting them.

She had made it clear to me that she was not interested in working under those terms. This wasted time while the town remained in violation of the law.

So I need to apologize to Mr. Vane for my flippant answer when he questioned my logic in not supporting his insistence that we advertise for a DCO again and this time include Mr. Palow’s unreviewed  terms of employment with two pay scales.

Instead of going through the points I just offered, I pointed out that [Highway Superintendent] Mr. [Randy] Bashwinger was appointed to a job created for him, transfer-station manager, and there was no advertisement for the position so there were no resumes submitted and there were no interviews. There was no competition for the best candidate.

I noted there was no job description and no performance expectations. So, I compared the amount Mr. Bashwinger is handed every year for his illegitimate job, around $4,000, to the $4,000 budgeted for the DCO and suggested that is the place to save $4,000. I admit that is a bit flippant, but it is true.

So I’ll better explain my logic in suggesting we just should have offered the job to our only viable candidate. I said, offer her the terms and conditions under which she was employed (when illegally removed from office), and I should have pointed to the fact that the money budgeted for DCO in 2021 has not even been used since April.

The cost budgeted for DCO for a year is less than 0.2 percent of the overall budget and we are talking about a quarter of a year here to get through 2021.

I think, if we want to radically change the terms of employment, we should offer the job under the old terms and get the town back in compliance with the law by just hiring someone for the remainder of 2021!

We would then have three months to propose and document those new terms of employment, review the proposal, ask for Department of Labor and Civil Service opinions, compile the board’s comments and generate a terms-of-employment document that reflects the review process. I think that could be done in 90 days while spending a fraction of the money budgeted for 2021.

Mr. Vane said he is offended that our DCO candidate doesn’t want to work under Mr. Palow’s unreviewed terms of employment. He said the candidate should consider the costs to the Berne taxpayer in her decision to accept the job. He insisted the board should just advertise again for a DCO, but this time under Mr. Palow’s unreviewed terms and hire someone.

These illogical thoughts do not reflect a carefully considered, step-by-step process to make decisions that could very seriously impact the town, taxpayers, and employees. If Mr. Vane is so concerned about taxes, he should consider the fact that the town is forcing residents to pay dog-licensing fees but not providing the service.

And, on top of that, this is illegal. Mr. Vane is just pontificating at meetings and trying to appease the ill-informed who blather nonsense on Facebook. This type of thinking is why we are in violation of the law and have no DCO.

In my experience with the Democratic town board candidates, I find them to all be serious, process-driven, logical problem-solvers. That is what the town really, really needs.

Joel Willsey

Berne Town Board

More Letters to the Editor

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.