The town of Rotterdam will enter into a three-month contract with former Niskayuna comptroller Paul Sebesta until the town can hire a comptroller to oversee its finance department.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to hire Sebesta at a rate of $100 an hour, not to exceed $38,500.
He will help with various financial tasks including auditing and providing advice to town officials.
Sebesta was recommended to the town and had previously worked with the town, said Supervisor Mollie Collins prior to the meeting.
However, the vote did not come without discussion surrounding Sebesta’s past as Niskayuna comptroller and subsequent departure from that position.
Board member Samantha Miller-Herrera, a lawyer, asked whether Sebesta will indemnify himself should claims of discrimination or racial bias be made against him.
Sebesta retired from the Town of Niskayuna in 2020 after he was suspended without pay by town officials when photos surfaced showing him in black-face as part of a Halloween costume in 2014. He was later paid $73,000 in unused sick and vacation time by the town while still under investigation for other allegations of discrimination. That investigation concluded that the town could have let him go without the payout.
“I don’t want to get into what actually happened,” Miller-Herrera said. “I certainly don’t want to disparage him. If he’s going to provide these services that’s great. I just want to make sure that if something goes wrong we don’t have to pay out claims because of it.”
Board member Joe Mastroianni said he couldn’t see anything going wrong with Sebesta working in town.
“Mr. Sebesta was a victim of a terrible circumstance that was in close proximity to the George Floyd riots and he had to step down from his position without a fair shake,” he said. “I don’t see how that would put Rotterdam in any challenging circumstance at all. I don’t know what you’re implying.”
Miller-Herrera said she wasn’t implying anything, but wanted to ensure the town was protected if something did happen given Sebesta’s history.
“I don’t want to have to pay out $150,000 for investigations,” she said. “I don’t want to pay out claims if something happens. Knowing that there’s a history puts us at risk. It makes us liable for it. I don’t think we should carry that liability coverage, I think he should.”
Board member Evan Christou said any time the town contracts for services it asks if there’s insurance.
Collins said the town would ensure he had liability coverage.