GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to amend the city’s personnel policy to include a “separation package” providing a 90-days-of-pay severance check and health insurance coverage to the city’s appointed officers who have served longer than one year.
If a new mayor in January 2022 were to change personnel for each of the appointed positions, under the new policy it would cost the city an estimated $100,135 worth of severance pay to replace those positions, not counting the cost of maintaining the health insurance for those officials.
Gloversville is unusual among local cities in that most of its appointed officials — including the city attorney, city clerks and the city DPW director — serve one-year annual appointments and must be re-appointed by the mayor or council with majority council approval every year at the city’s January organizational meeting.
The city’s Tuesday workshop meeting was conducted via the Zoom video conferencing program and live-streamed to the city’s Facebook page.
The resolution received bipartisan support with Democrats Marcia Weiss (1st Ward), Betsy Batchelor (3rd Ward), joining with Republicans Arthur Simonds (2nd Ward), Jay Zarrelli (5th Ward) and Wrandy Siarkowski (6th Ward) to pass the resolution.
The council’s Republican majority was effectively split over the issue, with Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio and Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr. voting against the change.
Anadio argued the city’s system should remain as it is. She said the policy change resolution was not introduced through the council committee system and isn’t needed because there aren’t many instances when an appointed official is not reappointed.
“I think you’re putting, maybe the next mayor or whatever, you’re attaching a sum of money if he wants to change the person in charge, and when all of these people were hired they were told these are yearly appointments — that was made clear when they took the job,” she said. “I’m not agreeing with this, and I don’t think it was done properly, and I think we should table it.”
Anadio’s motion to table the resolution was seconded by Rowback, who remained silent during the debate between council members. The motion to table was defeated by the same 5-2 council majority in favor of the policy change.
The policy change is occurring within the context of Rowback having announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for city mayor on March 2, and an ongoing council probe of his conduct stemming from allegations made by Department of Public Works Director Christopher Perry in his Jan. 8 resignation letter. Perry was reappointed by the council a week later at the same time the council began a probe of Rowback’s conduct.
In his letter Perry referenced his fears that Rowback will become mayor and not reappoint him.
“If there is a new mayor come year-end, I know that I will simply be cast aside at that point,” wrote Perry. “Therefore, I am not going to continue to put in the stressful and hard-working 50-plus hours a week this position requires and demands only to be kicked to the curb come the end of this year.”
In the resignation letter, Perry accused Rowback of helping to create a hostile work environment against him.
“Residents parrot back to me the same insults and degrading comments – almost verbatim – regarding Vince DeSantis that Bill Rowback has made repeatedly to me during my time here,” Perry wrote.
Although the city clerk and deputy clerk are subject to annual appointments by the common council, the mayor appoints with council approval the city attorney, DPW director, finance commissioner and deputy finance commissioner.
During Tuesday night’s council meeting Weiss argued the policy change is not aimed at “attaching a sum of money” to a mayor or council choosing to not reappoint an official.
“The reason is to give some stability to employees,” she said. “When you only have a one-year appointment, you’re right the mayor can do as they please and change that appointment, but don’t you think it’s fair for us to consider our employees — who do such a good job for us — and when they are doing a good job, if the mayor wants to change them the mayor can change them …”
‘You’re attaching a sum of money to it,” Anadio interjected.
Weiss said giving the city appointees peace of mind is the right thing to do, and 90 days severance will give them the time to find another job.
“I think that’s only fair,” Weiss said.
Simonds said he believes appointees will perform better knowing they have the separation package.
“Any mayor coming in can ask anybody to leave at his discretion, but more than likely the occurrence of somebody actually claiming this is actually pretty remote,” Simonds said.
Anadio agreed that the city has had low-turnover in recent years among appointed officials, but said that’s one of the reasons the policy is not needed.
The only way to change the one-year appointment system would be with a city charter change, subject to voter referendum, but the personnel policy change approved Tuesday night will now make it a more expensive proposition for the city government to change any of those appointments.
According to the resolution, any appointed employee with at least one-year of service who is “not the subject of disciplinary action” is eligible for the 90-day severance payment, which will be paid all-at-once on “the day following the expiration of their term or the next business day following the effective day of their termination from the city.”
City Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan said the policy change does not affect the city’s department heads protected by civil service, such as the fire and police chiefs, but it does affect her position, which is appointed to a four-year term matching the term of the city mayor.
Weiterschan said the 90-day severance pay is equal to about 25 percent of the salary of the officers affected by the policy:
• City Attorney Anthony Casale, 2021 base salary $75,000, severance — $18,750
• City Clerk Jennifer Mazur, 2021 base salary $49,040, severance — $12,260
• DPW Director Christopher Perry, 2021 base salary $70,000, severance — $17,500
• Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan, 2021 base salary $80,000, severance — $20,000
• Finance Deputy Commissioner Maryann Reppenhagen, 2021 base salary $51,500, severance — $12,875
Weiterschan said the cost of maintaining the health insurance of officers who are not reappointed would be difficult to calculate and would vary depending on whether the officer had a family health insurance plan or not.