Hearing on Amsterdam engineer’s dismissal is postponed

A hearing requested by dismissed city engineer Richard Phillips, scheduled for Thursday, has been


A hearing requested by dismissed city engineer Richard Phillips, scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed as officials try to work out a settlement in private.

The postponement has pleased some aldermen who felt uncomfortable running a trial-like hearing to determine whether Phillips, an appointed department head, should get his job back, receive back pay, or both.

Phillips who was appointed in April 2008 to fill a vacancy as city engineer, overseeing multiple departments, including the Department of Public Works, was dismissed by Mayor Ann Thane in November.

Thane justified her actions by saying that she was elected based on the fact that she would hold public officials accountable.

As an appointed official, the City Charter stipulates that Phillips is entitled to a hearing in front of the Common Council. The hearing would be like a trial with both Thane and Phillips giving evidence to the Common Council to support their cases.

Phillips retained Latham-based attorney James Tuttle to represent him at the hearing last week. Tuttle said he and Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis agreed to postpone the hearing so he could get caught up with the case.

“There is going to be a fair amount of discovery with both sides providing evidence to support their claims,” Tuttle said Monday.

Tuttle also said he has sent a settlement proposal to city officials, but has not received a response.

DeCusatis said he wasn’t going to discuss the possibility of a settlement in the press.

Settling the issue without a hearing, which would likely be public, would probably save taxpayers’ money. The Common Council hired an outside attorney, Charles Swartz, along with the services of a paralegal to represent the city’s interests in the case.

DeCusatis advised the council last week that a stenographer would probably have to be hired as well.

Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward, said he thought the hearing could turn chaotic, especially because it has never been done before in the city and there are no guidelines about how to proceed.

“It could turn out to be kangaroo court,” he said. “It could get real ugly and I don’t want to get ugly.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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