Planning Commission member Vincent Romano will lead the Rotterdam Public Works Department, but only on a part-time basis.
The Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for highway superintendent was appointed to the public works coordinator’s position vacated by Michael Griesemer, who resigned in April after being named in a sexual harassment claim against the town. Members of the Town Board approved a resolution provisionally appointing Romano, a retired Schenectady County Public Works supervisor collecting a pension, to the position at a salary of $30,000 with no benefits.
Town Supervisor Harry Buffardi said Romano will need to take a civil service exam and rank among the top three individuals taking the test in order to retain his job. He said the town will also post the position, which he described as being largely administrative.
“We’re testing the waters to see if we can do this cheaper,” he said. “We’re looking to do it cheaper and with the same degree of efficiency.”
Buffardi said Romano will be in charge of the Code Enforcement, Building Inspection and Planning departments, in addition to the town’s Parks and Recreation Department. Under the reconfigured coordinator’s position, workers in the various departments under Romano will report to him but operate independently.
Romano will work 20 hours per week and about 1,000 hours per year. Buffardi said his work at the county level should prepare him for his new job with the town.
“He’s done similar-type work for the county,” he said. “He has a background for this.”
Following Romano’s confirmation, the board also approved a resolution accepting his resignation as a member of the Planning Commission. Romano replaced David Savini on the commission in January and was in the first months of his seven-year term.
Timothy Bradt, the former deputy chief of the Rotterdam Police Department and Buffardi’s one-time top deputy at the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department, was then tapped to replace Romano. He retired from the sheriff’s department earlier this year and will earn $3,600 as a member of the commission.
Town Board member Robert Godlewski blasted the appointments as being purely political in nature and questioned whether three of the five Town Board members could even vote on Romano’s appointment.
Board members Wayne Calder, Michael Viscusi and Buffardi ran on the Democratic ticket with Romano last fall.
“There are certain jobs that should not be involved in politics,” he said of the coordinator’s position.
Godlewski also questioned whether Romano would ever take or pass the civil service exam. The county’s Civil Service Commission had no list of candidates for the job and no exam scheduled for the position, meaning one will not be given for at least two months.
“In other words, he could hold the position for almost a year as a provisional appointment and then not score in the top three,” Godlewski said. “By then, the board could eliminate the job in the next budget and contract it out or just change the job title to something else.”
Romano comes to the coordinator’s position in a similar manner that his predecessor did. Former town Supervisor John Paolino spearheaded a reorganization of the Public Works Department that led to the dismissal of the town engineer and creation of the coordinator’s position in 2003, the year after Griesemer lost his bid for the highway superintendent’s position.
Griesemer, at that time chairman of the town’s Democratic Committee, was then tapped to fill the coordinator’s position. Republicans at the time accused Paolino — now a special consultant working in the town comptroller’s office — of giving Griesemer a patronage job.
Likewise, Godlewski accused Buffardi of giving Romano a position as a political favor. He said Romano’s resume lacks any of the specialized training or supervisory qualities that are needed to lead public works.
Godlewski said Romano would be a fine candidate for a supervisory position in the highway department. But he said the coordinator’s position requires a degree of planning and engineering education that Romano lacks.
“He has absolutely no background in those areas,” he said. “What is this, on-the-job training?”