Retired highway super dropped from insurance

BERNE — The town’s former highway superintendent, Kenneth Weaver, chose a public forum to confront Supervisor Kevin Crosier about his canceled health insurance, calling Crosier a “f---ing liar.” With an election on the horizon, the scene rehashed an issue from last year’s race.

The confrontation took place at an Oct. 18 informational meeting at a lodge on property the town is purchasing.

Crosier told The Enterprise he followed the town’s employee handbook in canceling Weaver’s insurance. It requires a non-union retiree to be at least 62 in order to be on the town’s insurance plan and pay a low contribution rate. Weaver, 58, who resigned from the job in September citing tensions with the town board, can resume with the same costs when he turns 62. Until then, he can still be on the town’s health plan by paying in full.

After talking to Crosier, Weaver walked outside the lodge and smoked a cigarette, telling The Enterprise he had just received a call from his wife, who went to pick up his diabetes medication at a pharmacy and was told he didn’t have insurance coverage.

“I have nothing — nice,” Weaver said. “I worked all my life, 38 years, for insurance.” He said he didn’t know why his policy was canceled and spoke of vague suspicions.

“There’s definitely a conflict between me and Kevin. There’s a game here,” he said.

Weaver said he had expected to be able to keep his insurance since stepping down as highway superintendent in September, feeling he didn’t have the town board’s support after it authorized Crosier to seek bids for roadwork instead of waiting for Weaver’s late list, which he submitted the day after the vote.

“He’s going to tell you he didn’t, but he knew this,” Crosier told The Enterprise, saying he followed the employee handbook, which includes an eligibilty provision that was enacted specifically for Weaver.

Asked whether Weaver’s benefits in retirement were explained to him after he resigned, Crosier said, “He already knew that…The town attorney explained it to him.”

Crosier said it would have been irresponsible to not cancel the insurance.

“When we’re audited by the state comptroller it’s one of the first things they’ll look at,” he said. “…They’ll look at employee benefits, resolutions, and the handbook, to make sure we’re following exactly what we passed.”

The provision allows former employees or officials to keep their health insurance if they have worked for the town for at least 30 years, are at least 57 years old, are not part of a bargaining unit, and retire before 2014.

Weaver does not fit the last criterion now, but he did fit all of the criteria in 2013, when he declined the Democratic, Conservative, and Independence Party endorsements in order to retire. He felt a promise by Crosier and Councilman Joseph Golden to maintain his benefits was broken when the town’s attorney said he couldn’t have the agreement in writing.

Crosier and Golden said then that they could promise only their votes, not those of future board members who may occupy their seats.

“I told him, as long as I’m supervisor, I wouldn’t change the benefit,” Crosier told The Enterprise last year.

Weaver then ran on the Republican line and won.

In August, the board voted to allow Crosier to seek bids for paving town roads, creating a list of road projects and their specifications, which Weaver hadn’t yet submitted. Weaver handed in his list the following day, but Crosier said it wouldn’t have been approved since it was over budget.

“I had told them when they asked me to run four years ago that I needed a secretary for my paperwork, that I was not a paper person, and I will not lie about that to anyone,” Weaver told The Enterprise. “I cannot handle all that paperwork; I never could.”

He added about a secretary, “They promised me that they would give me her to keep my paperwork so I could do the job, that was part of the understanding.”

Transitioning the town to accounting software used by the county, the 2013 budget called for a new position, a senior account clerk who would work for both the town’s general fund and the highway fund. This meant that Weaver’s secretary would leave the highway department and work under the senior clerk. Later, a part-time secretary position was again established at the highway department.

“She had never come to me and explained to me that there was a deadline in doing these roads,” Weaver said of the senior account clerk.

 “It’s his job to do that work, not the secretary’s not the town supervisor, not the town board,” said Crosier. “Mr. Weaver was the highest paid official in the town of Berne. It was his responsibility to do the work.”

When asked whether he or the town board had any awareness of Weaver’s challenges with paperwork, Crosier said, “No, he never came to us and said, ‘I can’t do the work.’”

Now that Weaver has stepped down, highway worker Edward Hampton has been appointed as an acting highway superintendent and is running in the Nov. 4 election with Democratic endorsement against Republican Randall Bashwinger, a building supplies salesman who Weaver said he endorses. They are vying for the three years left in Weaver’s four-year term.

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