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Naming 2 highway crew chiefs instead of one stirs flap

Town of Lancaster officials wrongly gave a $60,000 crew chief job in the town Highway Department to someone in a politically connected family last summer, according to union leaders. The fallout will be felt by taxpayers for some time.

In order to comply with an arbitrator's finding against the town for its hiring decision, the Town Board voted Monday to create another, new crew chief position at the same salary.

Terri Hoffmann, labor relations specialist for Local 815, Civil Service Employees Association, said the upshot is that the Highway Department now has four crew chiefs, instead of three, with each chief now supervising fewer than six employees.

"So now we've got four working crew chiefs making 60 grand a year, plus a highway superintendent," she said.

Town Attorney Richard Sherwood strongly disagreed with Hoffmann's and others' characterizations of the situation, saying the town made an honest mistake and was forced to create the new position because Civil Service rules prevent the town from demoting the man they originally hired to fill the post.

Sherwood also said that while four crew chiefs earn the same amount of money, one is technically an administrator and does not oversee laborers out in the field.

Last summer, Highway Superintendent Richard Reese hired Daniel Latello to fill a working crew chief vacancy. Latello is the brother of the owner of Fireside Inn on Central Avenue, Hoffmann said, and had far less experience than other candidates.

He was also hired out of blue-collar union ranks, even though the job was categorized as a white-collar union position at the time.

The arbitrator stated that John Smith, a former construction inspector, should have been given the job. Monday, the town created a new crew chief position so that both Smith and Latello could be accommodated, even though it is unclear whether the Highway Department has any need for an additional chief.

Hoffmann said she intends to file a new grievance because the newly created working crew chief position is automatically being given to Smith without being posted first.

In other business, the board:

*Agreed to create a new, part-time bailiff position for the Town Court. The post cannot exceed 19 hours a week, though it is likely the total hours will be far fewer.

*Approved the latest designed route for its six-mile Heritage Trail.

*Voted to request bids for the paving of some town roads. Road paving work is typically done in-house by the town's Public Works Department. But because of the October storm, the department has been overworked and fallen behind, Giza said. its paving schedule, Giza said.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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