Knox building inspector’s second job is admirable, super says

— Photo by Russ Pokorny, company secretary
Mara Afzali is sworn in as new firefighter for the Knox Volunteer Fire Company in 2018 by President Dan Sherman as Chief Bill Vinson stands at left.

KNOX — Knox’s building inspector, Dan Sherman, was living the “American dream” by working more than 3,750 hours for the city of Albany in 2019 while keeping up with his responsibilities as local building inspector, Knox Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis told The Enterprise when approached with the numbers, despite concerns that one job was eating into the other. 

Records obtained from the city of Albany earlier this month by The Enterprise show that, in 2019, Sherman logged 3,764.5 hours with the city, 52 percent (1,954.3) of which were overtime hours. 

That comes out to over 72 paid hours per week, including on-call hours, figuring he worked all 52 weeks of the year.

The Enterprise submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for the data after receiving an anonymous email over the summer asking how Sherman was able to balance his two jobs. While the number of hours Sherman has been paid for by Albany in 2019 is large there is no evidence that Sherman is falling behind in his part-time Knox position, for which he’s paid a salary of $9,522.

Sherman told The Enterprise that he works a 37.5 hour week for the city and mainly takes overtime hours late at night and early in the mornings, as well as on weekends, and that he’s on-call 24/7.

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise that the building department, which comprises Sherman and Sherman’s assistant, Richard Loucks, has no time requirement at this point, other than two office hours each week, which only require the attendance of one of the two staff members. All other work is done as needed, Lefkaditis said.

When asked how the performance of the town’s building inspector was evaluated, Lefkaditis said that, to his knowledge, Knox “has never had an evaluation process in place since its inception,” but that a policy committee formed earlier this year — made up of Lefkaditis, Councilman Dennis Cyr, and Town Clerk Traci Schanz — is drafting a policy that details employee expectations and more carefully manages the building department.

Job evaluations became an issue in Knox after several transfer-station workers were replaced without any warning, raising public protests.

The policy will be presented to the town board “no later than our January meeting,” Lefkaditis said.

Lefkaditis also said that, because Sherman’s position is protected by Civil Service Law, which requires a disciplinary hearing before he can be removed, it’s “his to keep/lose.”

 

Past concerns

Sherman has come under scrutiny in the past for issuing blank documents, discovered by The Enterprise in 2017, though it was a problem perpetrated not just by Sherman but Sherman’s predecessor, Robert Delaney, who died in 2015, when Sherman was the town’s assistant building inspector, and by Sherman’s former assistant, Glenn Hebert.

A review of building-department documents obtained through a FOIL request revealed that the majority of inspection forms issued between Jan. 1, 2014 and July 1, 2017 were left blank, and, in 2016, only one of the 28 building permits issued had markings on the accompanying checklist. Some documents lacked signatures.

The discovery emboldened a concern that an auditor for the city of Albany had then over Sherman’s working hours; his audit revealed that, in 2016, Sherman earned $65,166 in overtime pay on top of his base salary of $48,486.

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise in 2017 that the blank records didn’t indicate a problem with the work being done, but with the keeping of records, and that the town would look into addressing that problem, which it’s currently doing with its policy committee.

 

History

Both Lefkaditis and Sherman were annoyed that questions regarding Sherman’s performance had been brought up again, with Lefkaditis telling The Enterprise that he would no longer answer questions on the topic, calling it an “apparent crucifixion” based solely on the number of hours Sherman works rather than a specific grievance.

“Have we transplanted ourselves to Russia or Communist China?” Lefkaditis wrote in an email. “Because last I checked, we still live in the greatest nation in the world where the American dream is very possible and hard work is rewarded … And instead of admiring [Sherman’s] work ethic in a very American way, it appears to me that there’s a deliberate effort to demonize it. It’s most unfortunate.

“Now,” Lefkaditis went on, “if it turns out that he is in fact cheating the city and by extension all of us as taxpayers, then shame on him and I hope he gets what’s coming to him. But absent any such findings I will not be part of the diminishing of his efforts.”

Sherman told The Enterprise that he suspected that the complaint over his hours came from a resident who files “crazy complaints about the town.” Sherman said that he was initially reluctant to speak to The Enterprise about his side of the story because of his “sordid history” with the publication, resulting from its prior coverage of him, and a sense that “it wouldn’t matter anyway” given the apparent relentlessness of this resident.

“Like I said, I’m on call 24/7 ...,” Sherman said. “I take minimal vacation, I take minimal days off, and my record shows that. I’m close to retirement so I just come in and do my job, and that’s what I’m doing.”

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