Rotterdam Assessor Craig Surprise’s imminent departure is hardly shocking: Town Supervisor Frank DelGallo had vowed to “reform” the assessor’s office as part of his campaign for office last November and has a suit against the town over assessment hikes on two of his properties that Surprise was responsible for. And while DelGallo was entitled to make hay over the assessor as an election issue, he should have kept quiet and recused himself after he became supervisor when it came to dealing with and voting about Surprise.
DelGallo’s suit against the town and his role as the town’s chief executive present an obvious conflict of interest on issues that pertain to the person responsible for the suit. DelGallo didn’t fire Surprise, but he paved the way for getting rid of him by proposing a 50 percent pay cut in his 2011 budget. Then he had Deputy Supervisor Robert Godlewski privately negotiate a departure deal for Surprise, giving him nearly $13,000 in “sick leave, vacation leave and personal leave” (after working for the town for just three years!), and sprang it on an unsuspecting Town Board at the end of a four-hour meeting Nov. 10.
Board members Gerard Parisi and Nicola DiLeva voted against it, protesting that they knew too little about it, but it carried when Councilman Matt Martin and Godlewski joined DelGallo voting in favor.
The Rotterdam assessor’s office has been politicized in the past, of course. When outraged residents complained about their new assessments after the town’s first revaluation in more than 50 years, John Macejka Jr. was dumped by Republican Supervisor Steve Tommasone. Then Surprise came in, and he persuaded the Town Board to sue GAR Associates, the firm that performed the reval; but he also raised DelGallo’s assessments, setting the stage for his fall from grace.
Assessors are supposed to be insulated from politics, but that’s only in theory. And certainly not in a place like Rotterdam.