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Ex-dogcatcher gets new job lifting garbage

After being suspended for a year without pay, the former West Seneca dogcatcher is back to work for the town but in a different position.

William J. O'Neil has joined the town's Sanitation Department as a lifter, loading garbage trucks. He will soon become a driver, according to the terms of an agreement he reached with the town.

O'Neil, 49, will continue to make the same salary he made as dogcatcher, about $48,000 a year. But he agreed to join the Sanitation Department with no seniority, meaning that if jobs are bid, he will be the last person considered.

The town has agreed to pay O'Neil $8,049 -- two months of back pay -- as part of the settlement, which officially puts an end to the town's investigation of him. "It's over. It's done with. We're moving on," said Town Supervisor Wallace C. Piotrowski.

O'Neil, brother-in-law of former Town Supervisor Paul T. Clark, served as West Seneca's dogcatcher for nearly two decades. The town eliminated the position in the 2010 budget.

Last March, town officials told O'Neil he was under investigation but never indicated what he was accused of. He was told to turn in his keys, his ID and any town property he had.

West Seneca police launched an investigation, but it stalled after a few weeks, when O'Neil declined to talk to investigators, according to the police chief. No criminal charges were filed.

A few months into his suspension, O'Neil sued the town, seeking reinstatement to his job and back pay.

A State Supreme Court justice agreed with him that it seemed improper for the town to impose a punishment by suspending him before an investigation was concluded. But Justice Patrick H. NeMoyer dismissed the suit, saying O'Neil needed to resolve the situation through procedures in his union contract.

Attorneys for O'Neil and the town reached a settlement before the case reached an arbitrator. Neither O'Neil nor his attorney, Andrea L. Sammarco, responded to requests to comment.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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