Village names first ever administrator

CHATHAM–The Village Board voted unanimously last week to hire Barbara Henry as the part-time village administrator, a newly created post.

Ms. Henry previously worked at the Special Needs Program in Ghent, where she was executive director for the last two and half years. She said in a brief phone interview with the Columbia Paper this week that she left Special Needs December 1. She is a resident of the Village of Chatham.

The administrator’s main purpose will be to oversee the day-to-day functions of village government departments that do not currently have dedicated supervisors. The administrator’s position will, in total, cost the village slightly more than $30,000 per year. That includes payments to the state retirement fund as well as employment taxes.

Mayor Tom Curran said at an October board meeting that the administrator’s salary of $24,000 was already accounted for in this year’s budget, because the village had planned to hire a water and sewer superintendent, but decided the quality of applicants did not meet village standards.

Also at the December 13 Chatham board meeting, accountant Michael Torchia said that his firm has run into problems with the software the village uses to maintain its books and has not received the necessary technical support from the developer to provide updates on this year’s budget.

This is the first year the village has attempted to produce year-to-date budget updates. The delay in receiving that information comes while the board is making changes to the size and structure of village government, including a reduction in the number of hours worked by village police and the creation of the village administrator position.

At several consecutive meetings, members of the public have asked for an updated budget, which Mayor Tom Curran has said the accounting firm was working on.

According to Mr. Torchia said some bank statements that had not been taken care of, which delayed creating the budget update. He also said that budgets from previous years had not been closed out.

“Torchia has run into a whole series of problems with the accounts, from bank statements not reconciled since May, the books not being closed out at year end, funds being put in the wrong accounts, problems with the software firm not honoring the support to Torchia, not upgrading the village software, and on and on,” Mayor Curran said in an email.

The village chose the firm Sickler, Torchia, Allen and Churchill under the direction of Mayor Curran after the resignation of former Village Treasurer Anne Marshall in August, who cited “the scope of the job” and personal issues as reasons for her departure.

State law requires the village to have a treasurer, and Ms. Henry will now fill this role in name. But the village will continue to retain Mr. Torchia’s firm.

In other business at the December 13 meeting, the board resolved an outstanding labor issue. In May the Village Board voted to adopt an “employment practices compliance manual,” which established work rules for village employees ranging from use of office printers and copiers to sexual harassment claims. The move came after the state Comptroller’s Office found the village’s previous employee handbook to be insufficient, according to Michael Richardson, the board’s labor consultant.

The 41-page document, available on the village website, affects all village employees. But many village employees belong to the Civil Service Employees Association, and their contract gives them bargaining rights over certain matters.

According to both Mr. Richardson and Ed Czyzewski, who heads Chatham’s sewer treatment plant and serves as treasurer of the village employees’ CSEA chapter, neither the board nor Mr. Richardson consulted the union before adopting the new work rules.

Mr. Richardson sent a copy of the new rules to a regional CSEA representative after the board adopted them and the CSEA filed an improper practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board, citing six rules it found objectionable and that were passed without any union input.

The six rules included policies about using village office supplies, property, and cell phones for personal use, to worker obligations regarding jury duty.

On December 13, Mr. Richardson met with CSEA representatives at a pre-hearing conference before the NYS PERB agreed that the rules were improperly passed. At the Village Board meeting that evening a divided board adopted a resolution to rescind the rules. The vote was 3-2.

During a public comment period, Mr. Czyzewski said that the union had objected because the union was not included in the discussion to change the rules. Members of the board said that they were not aware the union was not involved in the discussion.

The next board meeting is Thursday January 10 at 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial on Main Street Chatham.


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