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What you need to know for 02/22/2017

City worker accused of slur

City worker accused of slur

A Schenectady city supervisor is on paid leave after workers say they overheard him berating a black

A Schenectady city supervisor is on paid leave after workers say they overheard him berating a black employee and using a racial slur.

Mark Miller, a supervisor in the city's street division, was placed on administrative leave while city officials investigate the incident. A number of witnesses said they overheard the incident, which they said happened Nov. 1.

According to them, Miller was working at the new Bureau of Service in an open area where others could easily overhear him. He began shouting into his phone at an employee, they said, calling the black worker "stupid."

Then they said he shouted, "you dumb [obscenity and racial slur]." They said he also used obscenities while berating other workers .

Mayor Gary McCarthy said he's looking into the allegations and will take disciplinary action if the accusations are found to be true. He placed Miller on paid leave immediately under a provision in the labor contract.

The contract generally protects workers accused of misdeeds by allowing them to stay on the job while accusations are investigated. However, they can be removed if the accusations are of a "health and safety" matter. They must be paid while on leave, which some employees derided as a "paid vacation."

They said they did not immediately complain about the incident because they thought he would only get a few days off and then return to work. It was not clear who reported the incident to the mayor, but Miller was placed on leave this week.

McCarthy said he expects the investigation to be finished by Tuesday. City government is closed Monday for the Veterans Day holiday. He said he will discipline Miller immediately if the investigation finds the allegations to be true.

The investigation is moving unusually quickly for city matters. When police officers are accused of misdeeds, investigations often drag on for months, and the officers are afforded a full hearing with an outside arbitrator in which they can defend themselves.

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett has for years argued that he could speed up discipline if he could handle it himself, rather than hiring an arbitrator. But Bennett said that he would still need about 60 days to complete an investigation.

The Court of Appeals recently ruled that most municipalities can enact their own police discipline, but the Schenectady police union is challenging that decision on the grounds that Schenectady's laws might not meet the requirements set down by the Court of Appeals. A decision on that issue is not expected until next year at the earliest.

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