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PARKS CHIEF INVOLVED IN BAR FRAY RETIRES

City Highways and Parks Superintendent Samuel N. Burkhardt retired Monday, in the wake of punching one of his foremen in a bar after work Dec. 15.

Burkhardt, 62, went on sick leave immediately after the incident, and that leave expired Friday.

Deputy Corporation Counsel P. Andrew Vona, who handles personnel matters for the city, issued a statement announcing the settlement and stating that foreman Dennis Costello will not pursue assault charges against Burkhardt.

Burkhardt, who has worked for the city for 45 years, had been superintendent since 1985. He has called Costello, 43, his "best friend."

He phoned Costello and asked him to go to the Ski Lodge, a bar at Niagara and Trowbridge streets, about 7:15 p.m. Dec. 15 because he had been drinking and wanted Costello to drive the city vehicle Burkhardt had taken to the establishment back to the city garage.

Police reports said Burkhardt punched Costello in the mouth in an unprovoked attack. Costello suffered a cut lip and damaged dentures. At Costello's request, he was placed on an administrative leave by Mayor Kenneth D. Swan the next day "to get his stuff together." He returned to work Dec. 28.

Burkhardt was placed on sick leave after Swan received a note from his doctor.

Vona's statement said that Burkhardt "wishes to express his thanks to all those in the community who have made it a pleasure to serve over the years, and he also wished his former department the best of luck.

"Of his well-publicized clashes with City Hall," the statement continued, "Mr. Burkhardt indicated that those issues are in the past, and that he leaves with no hard feelings toward the current administration."

Reached at home, Burkhardt declined to amplify on that. He said he will be devoting some of his time to officiating high school basketball games, a part-time job he's had for decades.

Swan, who has battled with Burkhardt repeatedly over the management of his department, declined comment on the retirement. "This is entirely up to Sam," he said.

The superintendent position is governed by Civil Service law. Swan said the post will be vacant for some time to come.

"I don't think there's a (Civil Service) list for that. We're going to continue to operate as we are, with the foremen," Swan said. "I'm the acting Commissioner of Public Works."

Candidates for the commissionership are to be interviewed this week. City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney, a member of the search committee, said he expects the Highways and Parks job to remain open until the new commissioner has a chance to size up the department.

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