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West Seneca debates moot hiring case

A month-long public debate about the appointment of a seasonal laborer in the West Seneca Highway Department continued Monday night.

But, at this point, the issue is moot.

Retired deputy highway superintendent Robert J. Schultz, the subject of that debate, stepped down from his $10-an-hour part-time job last week, according to Highway Superintendent Matthew D. English.

“He said, ‘I just feel uncomfortable,’” English related Monday night.

Schultz, who retired in December 2010 after almost four decades with the town, had been working in his old department for the past three summers. The work largely involved dealing with phone calls and visits from residents, English said.

One of the issues that surfaced this year was the authority of English, the independently elected highway superintendent, to make the appointment without Town Board approval – which was granted in previous years.

English maintains that he holds that authority under state Highway Law. Town Attorney Charles “Chip” Grieco was asked at the board’s June 16 meeting to find the answer to that question.

But Monday night, when asked essentially the same thing by Susan Kims, a Covington Drive resident, Grieco declined to say what his research revealed.

“I provided the board with my legal analysis. However, that was attorney-client privilege with the board,” Grieco said.

When Kims turned to lawmakers to see if they’d provide the answer, Town Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan replied: “At this moment, no.”

Councilmen Eugene P. Hart and William P. Hanley Jr. first voted against the appointment June 2. Both claimed they had heard that Schultz had been recruiting people at the highway garage to run for the town’s Democratic Committee.

English wasn’t present at the June 2 meeting. At the following meeting, on June 16, he said Schultz was allowed to talk to people interested in running for the committee when they were off the clock.

English blamed politics for the councilmen’s objections.

The appointment was tabled at the June 16 meeting. Afterward, English hired Schultz on his own authority.

When the appointment again came up for a vote Monday night, Hart and Hanley said “no” before the town supervisor indicated it no longer was an issue.

The board subsequently approved the appointment of Sandra Lewis to the job.

The councilmen later voted to table a motion by Meegan for a policy change stating that no town retirees – except for court officers – shall be hired for a paid position in the town.

“I believe this could be construed as age discrimination in some cases,” Hanley said.

In other business Monday, lawmakers voted unanimously in favor of partnering with Orchard Park to join the CodeRED Emergency Communications Network. The five-year contract has a price tag of $125,788.85.

Under the system, notifications are sent to residents and businesses who are automatically included because they have listed telephone numbers, as well as those who otherwise enroll. Smartphone users can download an app, for example.

“It’s the best product out there for our town’s needs,” said Police Chief Daniel M. Denz.