Both the Niskayuna town attorney and comptroller will be replaced come Jan. 11 after the current employees holding those positions were notified the town “wanted to move in a different direction.”
Town Attorney Paul Briggs and Comptroller Ismat Alam confirmed Thursday they are not being reappointed to their positions in town during the board’s organizational meeting next week. Briggs, an employee of the town for over 32 years, has begun the process to file for retirement, he said in an emailed statement Thursday.
“Town Supervisor Puccioni advised me that I am not being reappointed based on the Town Board’s decision to go in a different direction,” Briggs said. “While I do not know who will serve as the next Town Attorney, I stand ready as I always have to assist them in any way possible. I wish them and the newly elected Town officials all the best. With that being said, I have a robust private practice and I am eager to spend more time at it before I retire completely.”
The deputy town attorney is Alaina Finan.
On the flipside, Alam has sought legal counsel and is weighing her options, according to her attorney Kate McGuirl, who was formerly the Rotterdam town attorney.
“The town’s blatant discrimination, terminating Comptroller Alam, while on approved federal FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] leave and state mandated leave, is illegal and immoral,” McGuirl said in an emailed statement. “Startlingly, employers still need to be reminded discrimination against people, like Ms. Alam, covered by a protected class status … is a violation of their constitutional rights. This discrimination tears at the fabric of our community’s integrity and dignity. Comptroller Alam has been discriminated against, had her rights violated, has been threatened, and intimidated all while in the workplace, but she endured, performing her duties as the comptroller and human resources officer, only to be discriminated against again and illegally terminated.”
Alam’s leave was approved Dec. 20, McGuirl said, with then-Supervisor Yasmine Syed notifying the town board by email on Dec. 27 of the leave.
McGuirl said Alam was notified on Tuesday that her last day would be Jan. 11.
Supervisor Jaime Puccioni said it’s at her discretion to appoint a town attorney and comptroller. She declined to comment further.
While no agenda has been posted regarding who will take over the comptroller’s position, Elizabeth Greenwood, the former finance director in Rotterdam, said Thursday discussions had taken place about her becoming the comptroller.
But, she added, “I have not been named to the position.”
Greenwood was confirmed as the director of finance in Rotterdam in December 2020. She is a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserves, has served two terms as the mayor of Tully and helped the town of Niskayuna with establishing its farmer’s market. When the new administration took over in Rotterdam this month, she was let go as the director of finance.
Greenwood is also listed as a realtor in Schenectady and a resident of Niskayuna. Town residency was a sticking point for many Niskayuna residents, who repeatedly noted at town board meetings that Alam did not live in town. Alam had lived in Clifton Park before buying a home in the city of Schenectady in the fall of last year.
The resolution hiring Alam stated only that she needed to live in Schenectady County or a contiguous county.
Board Member Jason Moskowitz declined to comment on whether Greenwood was the person who would be appointed to the comptroller’s position, but said the town’s agenda for the organizational meeting should be out Friday afternoon.
Briggs said while he has worked with some amazing people over the years in Niskayuna, things have changed. The privilege of the floor at meetings used to be about residents making brief comments or remarks, he said. He said situations would be remedied by a town board member or department head speaking to the resident in the hallway during the meeting.
That has changed.
“Now it has become a time when people make longwinded personal attacks and spread misinformation that denigrates our entire community,” he said. “Social media has ushered in more misinformation, cruelty, attacks on children and outright defamation all cloaked behind misleading and anonymous names that claim to be concerned about the taxpayers.”
He said the most disturbing change in town is the leaking of information, including personal information and executive sessions.
“The leaking is not to whistle-blow or shine light on a situation, but to embarrass and further political agendas,” he said. “In the past, while people might have disagreed during meetings, everyone was always able to shake hands afterward. We all appreciated the fact we lived in a small town and were neighbors. Now, no one is satisfied until people’s lives are ruined.”