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Former Saratoga Springs city engineer sues city

Former Saratoga Springs city engineer sues city

Tim Wales says his firing "shocks the conscience"
Former Saratoga Springs city engineer sues city
The entrance to Saratoga Springs City Hall is shown on Thursday, January 31.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Staff Photographer

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Former Saratoga Springs city engineer Timothy Wales is suing the city and Public Works Commissioner Anthony Scirocco, saying a disciplinary hearing last year that led to his termination was biased against him.

Wales, who had been city engineer for eight years, was fired by letter last Oct. 31 following a disciplinary hearing on 21 charges of misconduct, including allegedly intimidating another city employee and communications with land development applicants that the charges termed "unprofessional, discourteous, and unnecessarily confrontational."

The city also charged that he used city computers, phones and other resources while working for his private engineering consulting company and while dealing with a federal bankruptcy proceeding.

Hearings were held on three dates in August, 2019, before Jeff Honeywell, an attorney who was appointed as hearing officer. After the hearings, Honeywell found Wales guilty of 13 of the charges, and recommended termination.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 28 in the Saratoga County Clerk's Office in Ballston Spa, denied the charges against Wales were proven. The suit contends Honeywell, who previously was a labor relations counsel to the city, was biased in favor of the city. It claims that "the penalty of termination shocks the conscience."

In an affidavit filed with the lawsuit, Wales says that he believes the charges against him stem from tension between himself and Scirocco, because he supported a city charter change in 2017 that would have restructured city government and eliminated elected city commissioner positions, including Scirocco's. The proposed charter change was defeated by voters. He also noted that Scirocco's 2018 election opponent, Dillon Moran, once claimed to have Wales' backing; Wales said Moran later apologized for the remark.

The city engineer works for the Department of Public Works, which is overseen by Scirocco as an elected commissioner.

The lawsuit asks a state Supreme Court judge to annul the hearing determination and reinstate Wales to his previous position with full back pay and benefits, as well as attorney's fees.

Wales was suspended from his position with pay in March 2019. He subsequently filed a notice of claim against the city in an effort to keep his job, saying his rights had been violated.

The city engineer reviews development projects that come before the city for their possible impacts on the city's infrastructure, and also reviews the city's water, sewer and road infrastructure plans. Wales, who has more than 30 years of professional experience and lives in Saratoga Springs, earned $121,213 in 2018, his last full year of working for the city.

Neither City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis or the outside counsel who has represented the city in Wales' claim responded to a request for comment.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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