Article 78 against Knox hung up on backpay

KNOX — Fallout from a New Year’s Day appointment of three new Knox transfer-station workers — replacing the three original employees — is still working its way through the court system as two of the fired workers, whose jobs were protected by Civil Service Law, seek their back pay.

Monday, Oct. 28, was the returnable date of the Article 78 proceeding brought by the fired workers. Article 78 proceedings are typically used by citizens seeking relief from government decisions.

Joseph Adriance and Richard Dexter filed the Article 78 in Albany County Supreme Court on April 12.

Adriance and Dexter along with Mark Young were replaced by Jeremy Springer, Lee Harnett, and Glen Walsh at the Knox reorganizational meeting on Jan. 1. The vote was 3 to 2, with the three Republican-backed members — Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis and councilmen Ken Saddlemire and Karl Pritchard — voting in favor, and Democrats Dennis Barber and Earl Barcomb voting against the measure. 

Lefkaditis said this week that he would not comment on the matter because it was in litigation.

Because Adriance and Dexter worked at the transfer station for five years or more, they were protected under Section 75 of New York State’s Civil Service Law that states employees of varying definitions  “shall not be removed or otherwise subjected to any disciplinary penalty provided in this section except for incompetency or misconduct shown after a hearing upon stated charges pursuant to this section.” Mark Young had not reached the five-year requisite for at-will laborers to be protected under the law.

Adriance and Dexter requested of the court that they be reinstated at a rate of pay consistent with changes made by the town since their firing, and be compensated for back pay they would have received had they had not been illegally terminated.

The town board reinstated the workers on April 30.

 The town offered a settlement of $2,000 to be split between Adriance and Dexter, which they refused. Knox then attempted to have the Article 78 dismissed altogether, but that motion was denied by Acting Supreme Court Justice Kimberly A. O’Connor on Aug. 29, 2019. Knox has six months to appeal the decision, according to Joan Adriance, wife of Joseph Adriance.

Joan Adriance told The Enterprise that the total back pay owed to the two workers — from their firing on Jan. 1 to April 30 — is $6,800, to be split evenly. 

Both workers had been scheduled every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., totaling 15 hours each week. The pay rate for transfer-station workers as of Jan. 1st, 2019, was $13.82.

“It drags on you,” Joe Adriance told The Enterprise of the lengthy legal proceedings. “It’s always there.”

Dexter, who has worked at the transfer station for about 15 years, said the atmosphere has changed since Jan. 1. “It used to be enjoyable,” he said. “You meet a lot of good people. There are a lot of interesting people in town.”

He added of the workers, “We all used to work good together.”

Now, Dexter said, “The rules ain’t applied across the board … It makes you uncomfortable.”

Referring to cameras he said were installed after Lefkaditis took office, “Now you’re under the cameras … You have to think about every move you make.”

— Melissa Hale-Spencer contributed quotes from Richard Dexter to the story.

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