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Former Niskayuna comptroller seeks $26,313 in unpaid benefits

Former Niskayuna comptroller seeks $26,313 in unpaid benefits

Paul Sebesta retired after being suspended without pay
Former Niskayuna comptroller seeks $26,313 in unpaid benefits
Photographer: File photo

NISKAYUNA -- The former town comptroller who hastily retired in June after pictures of him in a blackface costume surfaced online has filed a notice of claim against the town, seeking $26,313 in benefits he says he is owed.

Paul Sebesta of Niskayuna, who was the town comptroller for 32 years, says in the claim filed against the town and Supervisor Yasmine Syed that he is owed for 350 hours of accumulated unused vacation time, and the town has withheld that money and refused to issue him a final paycheck.

"The withholding of wages to an employee is a violation of New York State law and there are statutory penalties associated with non-payment of monies earned as wages," according to the claim, whch was filed with the town by attorney Kevin A. Luibrand.

A notice of claim is a necessary precursor if Sebesta later decides to file a lawsuit against the town for the money.

Syed has written a letter to the state Comptroller's Office, seeking to determine if Sebesta forfeited the payout by retiring while he was on unpaid leave and facing possible disciplinary action over the photos.

Sebesta retired on June 18, two days after the Town Board suspended him without pay after photos surfaced showing him wearing a blackface custome at a Hallowen party in 2014. A progressive group sent copies of the photos to Town Board members, leading to the decision to suspend him.

"My continued employment is no longer in the best interest of either the town of Niskayuna or myself," Sebesta wrote in retiring. "Therefore, effective immediately, please accept this notice of my retirement from the town."

He said he had been planning to retire at the end of April, but agreed to stay to help the town deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated municipal finances across the country. At the time, Sebesta was earning nearly $130,000 per year.

Town Attorney Paul Briggs on Wednesday said the town does not comment on any litigation issues.

The town is still searching for a new comptroller, which is the top non-elected administrative position in town government. The Town Board voted Tuesday to consider candidates who don't live in the town to broaden the potential pool of applicants.

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

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