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Hamburg supervisor challenges Town Board action in court

Hamburg Supervisor Steven J. Walters is mounting a legal challenge against his fellow Town Board members over a union contract.

Walters maintains only the supervisor can negotiate a contract, and that the two board members, Thomas Best Jr. and Michael P. Quinn Jr., overstepped their authority.

He said he took the action to preserve the integrity of the supervisor’s position. “This wasn’t (that) I was offended by somebody,” Walters said. “I’m suing for the Town Board to act in accordance with New York State law.”

The board members disagree.

“He’s acting like a child,” said Best, who has clashed with the supervisor in the past.

The Town Board twice voted to have the supervisor sign the contract with Local 815, Civil Service Employees Association Blue Collar Unit. He has refused to sign the contract, which went into effect July 1.

Relations between the supervisor and labor have been choppy since the five unions representing town workers accused him of misconduct and manipulating health insurance rates late last year which would have increased employee contributions for many workers.

The unions issued votes of no confidence in the supervisor and a representative of each union stood up at a February board meeting to announce their displeasure with Walters.

Walters said Best invited the Blue Collar Unit negotiator into a work session in March, which Walters contends violated state law. But he said he has no issue with the union.

“I think the contract needs to be negotiated in its proper way. I don’t think it was negotiated in its proper way,” Walters said. “I am the only one authorized to make decisions in negotiations.”

Walters is represented by former Town Attorney Kenneth Farrell, and Michael F. Perley of Hurwitz & Fine is representing the board members. Perley will be paid by the town, and Walters said he plans to submit his bill to the town for payment, because he is acting in his capacity as supervisor.

Best said Walters did negotiate the provisions of the contract, and the union did not want Walters at the table. He said the board did not negotiate in his place.

While Walters did not sign the contract, the board directed that its provisions be implemented, and workers got a 2 percent raise July 1, but board members think he should sign the contract.

“Just because he doesn’t agree with the board doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a duty to follow through,” Best said.

“What’s the point of having a Town Board if what we vote on is challenged in court,” Quinn said. “That’s how democracy works. You vote on things and that’s how things get passed.”

Walters, in a proceeding known as an Article 78, is asking a state Supreme Court judge to void the approval of the contract and declare that the supervisor has exclusive authority to negotiate the terms of contracts.


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