An investigation into the Rotterdam town clerk regarding a complaint against her led to other instances of the clerk violating town policy, according to the partially redacted investigative report.
The clerk is denying all the claims.
“The allegations are not true,” said Town Clerk Diane Marco in an email Thursday. “My priority is serving the people of Rotterdam. Always has been and always will be. I love this town. It is a privilege and honor to be a Rotterdam town clerk.”
Sometime before Jan. 12, 2021, a complaint was filed against Marco by an unnamed employee. The investigation by Public Sector HR Consultants concluded that Marco violated the town’s employee handbook by using “offensive or unprofessional behavior that is contrary to the town’s best interest, or any conduct that does not warrant public trust.”
The consulting agency also said Marco violated the non-discrimination and harassment in the workplace policy.
Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone said the consulting agency is on retainer by the town for around $1,000 a month to handle human resources items like investigations of complaints and keeping town policies up to date.
According to the investigation, Marco and another unnamed person were aiding a resident at town hall when another female employee, who also is not named, stepped in to offer support. The investigation concluded that Marco raised her hand at the employee who stepped in to help and told that person to stop talking. During Marco’s interview with an investigator, she said that she told the employee, “Excuse me, we are trying to take care of the resident,’” documents state.
Marco said she could not remember if she put her hand up or made any other gesture.
“Ms. Marco explained that she is Italian and often gestures with her hands,” the report states.
The investigator notes in the reports that the interview was pushed back a day so Marco could compile notes from her daily work diary on the incident and that when she did do the interview she redacted some of the information she wrote down from the day of the incident from the investigator because she felt those details were irrelevant.
Marco told the investigator that she did not believe she was demeaning to the employee. The report states that after the incident the employee left work for the rest of the day.
“…Ms. Marco determined that her absence should be considered a sick leave absence, which demonstrates that Ms. Marco recognized the detrimental impact on [redacted] that her actions created,” the investigation states.
During the process of interviewing other employees about what happened, Tommasone said other town policy violations were uncovered. They include:
Completing employee time sheets
The investigation found that Marco violated the town’s code of conduct because employees are responsible for ensuring their time cards are complete and any preparation or manipulation of someone’s time sheet was prohibited. Marco admitted to the investigator that she has filled out, modified and changed time sheets in the past.
She said she changed time cards for the sake of accuracy, which she has to sign attesting to the correct time someone has worked as a department head. She also said her union told her it was OK to do so.
Sending sympathy cards/laminating obituaries
The report said Marco violated the town’s policy on use of municipal resources after it was concluded that she directed town employees during their work hours to go through the local newspapers and cut out and then laminate obituaries of town residents. Marco told investigators the laminator was hers and not the town’s and that she signs a sympathy card, which she buys along with the stamps, as being from the town clerk’s office.
“This is clearly not a responsibility of the town clerk’s office but rather appears to be self-promotion on the part of Ms. Marco, and not an expression of sympathy from the ‘Town of Rotterdam,’ ” the investigation states.
Issuing disabled parking permits
The investigation concluded Marco did not follow the requirements of the state Department of Motor Vehicles regarding issuing disabled parking permits. The report said Marco acknowledged that she would give out the permit even without the application being completed, which requires proof of a disability.
The consulting agency said it cannot be concluded, nor did anyone suggest that residents didn’t provide proof of a disability.
Marco said 99.9% of the time the application is completed.
Senior center incident
The consulting agency said that Marco shoved an unnamed person in the chest and shoulder area at the Rotterdam Senior Center on an unspecified date, which caused the person to stagger backward and hit a wall. Marco denied shoving the person, saying she was holding binders at the time so it would have been impossible for her to shove anyone. However, when interviewed by the investigator, Marco described the incident in a similar manner to the person who said they were shoved, according to the investigator, and therefore violated the town’s workplace violence prevention program and the town’s code of conduct.
Following COVID-19 guidelines
The company said Marco violated the town’s COVID-19 guidelines and employee code of conduct after the investigator was provided a photo of Marco showing her mask was not covering her nose during a meeting of the Rotterdam Senior Association. Marco also said she didn’t wear a mask in the clerk’s office because a county employee, who she did not name, said she didn’t need to if everyone else in the office was comfortable not wearing one.
Marco, who is up for reelection this year, said the investigation is all about politics.
“Rotterdam residents know a politically motivated investigation when they see one,” she said in the email.
Tommasone said her statement isn’t true, especially because the human resources consulting firm has been on retainer with the town for awhile.
“This isn’t something that we decided, ‘Oh, hey, we have this complaint; let’s go look at it,’ ” he said. “We’ve had other issues with other employees in the past and that’s the path we’ve always taken.”
No disciplinary action has been taken against Marco. Tommasone said he does not have sole authority to take any action, that it must be up to the board. He said he has presented the report to the board and told him what he feels should be done.
Deputy Town Supervisor Evan Christou said there has been no consensus on how to move forward on this issue yet, but protecting employees is of the utmost importance.