CHEEKTOWAGA – A former Cheektowaga Town Councilmember who was removed from office after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in 2014, and who was recently appointed to the town’s Planning Board, was appointed to the position of Deputy Highway Superintendent for the town.
Cheektowaga Chronicle has learned that Charlie Markel will officially start his new job on Monday, March 12th according to multiple sources in government Friday.
The appointment was made by Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner. A call Friday afternoon to Mr. Wegner was not immediately returned.
Mr. Markel’s yearly salary for the position will be $85,310 and he will be offered health insurance. He will be required to pay 10% of the premium if he accepts the coverage.
The new job comes several weeks after Mr. Markel was appointed to the town’s Planning Board at a yearly stipend of $3,491.
Mr. Markel was stripped of his council seat in 2014 after he pleaded guilty to unlawfully collecting unemployment while still receiving a salary for his duties as a town councilmember. He made full restitution and served a one-year conditional discharge.
He landed a job as a Water Utility Worker for the Erie County Water Authority in 2015. He made $51,341 in 2015, and $56,978 in 2016, according to the website SeeThroughNY.
Supervisor Diane Benczkowski told Cheektowaga Chronicle late Friday that she supports Mr. Markel’s appointment and knows he’s qualified for the job.
“He’s more than well qualified. He would need a CDL to be working at the water authority, so that fits in with the job description, and he understands the different jobs the highway department does,” said Ms. Benczkowski.
She also points to his experience as a manager of a local food market to solidify his leadership experience. Ms. Benczkowski – upset over the negative comments on Facebook associated with this article – feels that the public should give the former councilmember a second chance.
“I guess people don’t understand the story. This was a hit by Frank Max on him. Other people have been known to miss file unemployment and they just need to pay it back with some fines, but this happened to be an extreme case, and just because he was elected it was a big deal because then he had to step down,” added Ms. Benczkowski.
“I’m excited to have Charlie coming back to work in highway because I will be able to use his knowledge on the issues he helped fix in the town. I will have access to be able to call him and he can help with some of the zombie homes and the demolitions.”
The topic of zombie homes and their demolitions was something Ms. Benczkowski said Mr. Markel championed while a councilmember.
This would be the latest hiring into the Highway Department in several weeks. On February 27th, the town board approved a new secretary position for the department and later hired Lee Ann Stachura at a rate of $40,000 a year.
Unlike the creation and appointment of the secretary job, the town board does not need to approve Mr. Markel’s hiring according to New York State law.
The plan to eliminate the deputy position in early Fall was scuttled after the union which represents supervisors in the town argued that the town had to negotiate a $10,000 stipend and added work requirements for Michael Lumadue, the former deputy who later transferred to became a foreman and collective bargaining member in the Highway Department.
Update: Supervisor Diane Benczkowski called Cheektowaga Chronicle late Friday afternoon. Her comments are now reflected in the article.