Niskayuna has a new town attorney and a new comptroller following the Town Board’s first organizational meeting of the year on Tuesday.
The board voted unanimously to name former deputy town attorney Alaina Finan to the position of town attorney, and voted 4-1 to name Elizabeth Greenwood, former Rotterdam finance director, as their town comptroller.
Board member Jason Moskowitz voted against the resolution, not because he didn’t think Greenwood was an acceptable candidate for the position, but because he said he didn’t think the process was transparent.
“She has the knowledge and understanding of the fiscal concerns that currently face our town,” he said at the meeting. “My only concern is that we’ve heard over and over again about the lack of transparency and due process in town governance.
“While I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Beth this morning, and I support her appointment as interim comptroller. I feel that we cannot ignore the lack of process in this selection. Beth may very well be the most qualified person for this job, but we just don’t know that without a proper process.”
The move comes after former Town Attorney Paul Briggs and Comptroller Ismat Alam were notified that they were not going to be reappointed because the town “wanted to move in a different direction.”
“The change in personnel is part of an ordinary cyclical process,” Supervisor Jaime Puccioni said in an email — prior to the meeting. “Coming into the office as a newly elected supervisor I get to appoint the town attorney, comptroller and highway superintendent.”
She said that while she made the appointments, the board gets final say.
Briggs, an employee of the town for more than 32 years, said in a Dec. 6 emailed statement that he began the process to file for retirement.
“Town Supervisor Puccioni advised me that I am not being reappointed based on the Town Board’s decision to go in a different direction,” he 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.”
On the flip side, Alam has sought legal counsel and is weighing her options, according to her attorney Kate McGuirl, formerly Rotterdam’s town attorney herself.
“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.
Puccioni denies any discrimination against Alam.
“Beyond that, it is against the town’s policy for me to comment on personnel matters,” the new supervisor said.
Greenwood was confirmed as the director of finance in Rotterdam in December 2020. She is a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserves, served two terms as the mayor of Tully in Onondaga County, and helped Niskayuna establish its farmers’ market. When the new administration took over in Rotterdam this month, she was let go from her position as director of finance. Greenwood is listed as a Realtor in Schenectady and a Niskayuna resident.
“I think we are very fortunate to have someone with such great experience and strong credentials ready to take over in the Comptroller’s Office,” Deputy Supervisor Jessica Brennan said in a press release about the appointments. “And it means a lot to me that Greenwood is a Niskayuna resident.”
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 last fall.
The resolution for hiring Alam stated only that she needed to live in Schenectady County or a contiguous county.
The comptroller’s salary is $126,714 for 2022, according to town meeting documents.
Finan is a Niskayuna resident and graduate of Albany Law School. She was previously a Rensselaer County prosecutor before working full time as Niskayuna deputy town attorney from 2016-2018, according to a town press release. Finan left to work at the Schenectady County Public Defender’s Office and open her own private practice, where she focused on municipal law. Last January, she returned to work for the town on a contract basis, the release said.
The town attorney will make a salary of $80,000 in 2022, according to town meeting documents.
“I am happy to have Alaina on board as our Town Attorney,” Moskowitz said in the press release. “I have already worked with her during my first couple of weeks in office, and I can say with certainty that her knowledge, expertise and professionalism are exactly what we need to help guide us in the right direction.”