Hamburg Town Board members appointed Steven Mikac, a former assistant police chief, as director of buildings and grounds Monday night, igniting a firestorm of criticism.
Mikac will be paid $23,500 a year in the part-time post, replacing Tom Best, who was making $2,500 a year doing the job while also serving as the town Highway Department superintendent.
Best, who was stripped of the stipend in January by the two Democrats on the board, may have been the loudest critic of the new appointment.
“Aside from politics, can you give me any justification for removing me from a $2,500 position, full time, and giving it to somebody part time for $23,500?” he asked.
“The point is, he will not be there 40 hours a week when needed,” Best said. “You think I’m going to help him now, now you took my stipend away? You actually think I’m going to do the work?”
Up until last year, Best, who earns $81,266 as the highway superintendent, had earned his stipend as head of the department and overseeing the assistant superintendent of buildings and grounds, William Dash, who earned $23,500 for the part-time position. Dash retired last year, and the position was never filled. Best had served as a captain on the town police and as a town councilman before being elected highway superintendent.
The Democrats on the board had proposed in January that Mikac be named assistant superintendent and receive the $23,500 salary.
That proposal was tabled and amended Monday night to name him director of buildings and grounds for the same salary that Dash received, and that is included in the 2014 budget. Mikac is to work a minimum of 20 hours a week.
Supervisor Steven Walters, who voted against the appointment, said he believes the new job is a civil service position, and he is not comfortable signing the form certifying to Erie County that Mikac meets the minimum qualifications for the job.
He said the Town Board should get an opinion from the town attorney on whether the move would put the town in a “difficult” position.
Town Attorney Walter Rooth III said that he gave the board an opinion during its executive session and that the entire board would have to ask him to give the opinion during the open session.
Board members Cheryl Potter-Juda and Michael P. Quinn Jr. did not ask that the opinion be made public.
“I think your silence speaks volumes,” Walters said.
“The Buildings and Grounds Department has historically been under the control of the Town Board, and we’re just taking that back,” Quinn said.