Schenectady official accused of racial slur chooses to retire

Thursday, November 15, 2012
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— The city supervisor accused of cursing at employees and using a racial slur has chosen retirement rather than discipline.

Mark Miller, a supervisor in the city’s street division, allegedly berated a black employee and used a racial slur Nov. 1. He has been on paid suspension for more than a week while city officials investigated the reports.

Just before Mayor Gary McCarthy announced his decision on Miller’s fate this week, Miller filed for retirement.

“I believe that’s going to be the way it’s going to resolve itself,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy declined to discuss the findings of his investigation or what the punishment could have been. But he said he even considered whether it rose to the level of a crime.

“You have to evaluate every circumstance,” he said. “It could rise to criminal conduct, such as aggravated harassment.”

But, he said, he was not willing to institute a blanket prohibition on racial slurs. Sometimes friends refer to each other by such slurs, he said.

“Guys working out on the trucks, it’s a more locker room environment, they might use language we would not consider appropriate in church,” he said. “There may be more tolerance. Words could be bantered back and forth, people could be friends, and it doesn’t create a hostile work environment.”

However, the allegations in Miller’s case suggested he had created a severely hostile work environment, to the point where McCarthy removed him from the job while he investigated.

The labor union contract does not allow McCarthy to suspend workers without pay while under investigation. The contract says they must remain on the job unless there’s a health or safety risk, at which point they must be paid to stay home.

McCarthy said that if the allegations were true, Miller was a health and safety risk, so he sent Miller home with pay.

Workers said Miller has often berated his subordinates by using obscenities. They reported him after they said he crossed the line by using a racial slur.

They said everyone on the top floor of the new Bureau of Service building heard Miller shouting at an employee on his phone on Nov. 1. They said he called the worker “stupid” and then shouted, “you dumb [obscenity and racial slur].”

Miller can withdraw his retirement paperwork until Jan. 1, when his retirement becomes official.

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November 15, 2012
7:25 a.m.
tonijean613 says...

Mayor McCarthy and City Council should have a ZERO tolerance policy for demeaning workers in any form and should not accept a "locker room" work environment or attitude. All city employees should be respectful and professional at all times. They are well paid and represent the City of Schenectady. They are the face of Schenectady. Mark Miller is a prime example of abuse of power, and a big bully creating a hostile work environment; perhaps to the level of a hate crime. Either way it's just ugly. Our city can only be as good as the employees that run it. How can this department be running efficiently with this type of person managing it? This promotes a culture of waste and abuse that the Mayor must end. The City and its image cant afford people like Miller. Most likely where there is lack of respect for people- there is abuse and waste of tax payer money as well.

November 15, 2012
8:12 a.m.

The mayor's position on this is measured and realistic. I applaud his use of insight. Dark humor, nick-names, and epithets all build comradery and team work. The team knows when boundaries are crossed. It reads as if all but the supervisor have acted appropriately

November 15, 2012
8:30 a.m.
justapto says...

How about members of the public who over hear bad language, cursing, slurs. We pay the salaries of the people out on the street or riding in these trucks.
The city has enough bad press. Remember the cops throwing eggs, the cop fired for calling some people outside the police station a common racial slur!
This is not professional or a standard we want our paid representatives of the city to be exposing!

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