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Compensatory time issue stirs political fireworks in Cheektowaga

Consideration of a resolution dealing with timekeeping for Town of Cheektowaga employees erupted into some brief, politically tinged fireworks Monday night at the Town Board’s regular meeting.

The resolution sought to clarify the town’s policy on compensatory time for nonunion, salaried employees such as department heads and other supervisors. Supervisor Mary F. Holtz, backed by Town Attorney Kevin G. Schenk, said comp time for those employees is not allowed, except in the Police Department.

“We haven’t had compensatory time in the town policy since the early to mid-1990s,” Schenk said.

The new wording in the personnel policy states, “Employees covered by this policy are not entitled to accrue compensatory time. Employees working additional hours outside the standard workweek have the ability to work a flexible schedule within the same workweek.”

The resolution used as an example an employee who may have an assignment or a meeting that extends for two hours beyond the normal workday. The employee has the ability to shorten another workday during the same week by two work hours.

But Councilwoman Diane M. Benczkowski showed a time sheet that she said is used in the Highway Department that includes “compensatory” as an option.

“Those are time sheets from years ago,” Holtz said.

The resolution was aimed specifically at the Highway Department and comp time apparently granted to its deputy superintendent, Benczkowski said after the meeting.

Allegations of misappropriation have been swirling around the department and its superintendent, Mark D. Wegner, and are now being investigated by the state attorney general.

Wegner said after the meeting that he was just following a long-standing “past practice” in the department by offering comp time while Benczkowski accused the board majority of conducting a “witch hunt” against Wegner and his deputy, Michael J. Lumadue.

Wegner is also the town Democratic chairman after ousting Frank C. Max Jr. last fall in committee elections. Political warfare has since been waged between factions of the town Democratic Party and it seemed to boil over Monday night in Council Chambers. “It specifically states, as you can see, that they do not receive compensatory time,” Holtz said of the town policy in response to Benczkowski.

“That’s a lie,” Wegner said from the audience. He then contended that Holtz told his former deputy he could not get overtime but would be eligible for compensatory time.

“I never told him that,” Holtz said.

“Yes, you did,” Wegner shot back.

Wegner then told Schenk he would be receiving a letter this week from Wegner’s attorney informing him of Wegner’s intention to sue the town for $20 million.

At that point, Councilman James P. Rogowski objected and said the public is allowed to comment on resolutions only at the beginning and end of meetings.

“During the meeting no questions can be asked about resolution items,” he said.

“This is not the time to discuss litigation and Mark’s life,” Holtz said. “I think we need to take a vote on this resolution.”

The Council voted, 3-1, in favor of the resolution, with Benczkowski casting the no vote, but needed a unanimous vote to pass. Two Council members were excused from Monday’s meeting

“It’s going to cost the town more money by hiring somebody at time-and-a-half to do the work that should have been done by an exempt,” she said after the vote.