CHEEKTOWAGA – A new chapter in the ongoing political saga between the town board and the highway superintendent was written Tuesday night after two councilmembers temporarily stopped the process to add a new job to the town’s inventory.
Councilmembers Gerald Kaminski and Brian Nowak tabled the resolution that would create a Secretary to the Superintendent of Highways over budgetary and legal concerns.
“It’s a creation that should have been done a long time ago for the highway superintendent,” said Supervisor Diane Benczkowski during the town board meeting. “I have an assistant to the supervisor; the town justices have their own assistants.”
The position would be non-competitive under civil service rules allowing Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner, and future occupants of the elected office, the flexibility to hire and fire who they choose without the town board’s input.
“I need a confidential secretary. There’s too much [stuff] leaking out,” Mr. Wegner told Cheektowaga Chronicle. “She’s going to get $40,000 with no benefits.” He said he eliminated a $90,000 full-time foreman position from his budget to allow for this hiring.
The resolution was tabled by Mr. Kaminski during the board meeting so he could get clarification from Albany on whether a highway superintendent could even make that kind of hire. The legal language he researched and presented Tuesday night conflicts with legal language presented to the board by Ms. Benczkowski.
Mr. Wegner feels this is just another political attack. “They should have brought it up at the work session, and they would have understood it, but they wouldn’t do that. They waited until the meeting to make me look like an asshole.”
“He never even asked one question of where’s the money is coming from, and the political part of this is him bringing the highway law book to the meeting. When did he ever do that before? Does he do it when the cops create a position? No. He only does it when its highway and then when I’m purchasing a truck they always have to question it, but when sanitation, or parks, or anyone else buys a truck, not one question is even asked.”
After the meeting, Mr. Kaminski told reporters he had concerns about adding another position to the ever increasing town budget and the optics of the appointment.
“My assumption, it’s going to be a political appointment from what I heard already,” said Mr. Kaminski. “That remains to be seen. It might just be rumors, but I’m not sure.”
“What job isn’t in the town,” Mr. Wegner asked of Cheektowaga Chronicle. “Who am I supposed to put into that position, one of his people? I already have that, and I don’t trust the person. Is that what I’m supposed to do – put somebody in there that I don’t trust?”
Mr. Nowak wants to see what kind of impact the job would have on the budget before he votes on approving the job creation.
“We’re talking about a salary, benefits, workers compensation, and getting into the retirement system. There may be additional costs beyond that so we’re talking about a town budget that’s north of $90 million now. We’ve got to find ways to save. We look at the numbers of folks that are struggling to get by that are going into poverty in the town, and that’s increasing. We have to do whatever we can to hold the line on property taxes.”