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Hamburg highway superintendent fights to keep town SUV

Hamburg Highway Superintendent Ted Casey says he has the authority to drive his town-issued Ford Expedition home.

The Town Board ordered him to turn in the black SUV by Friday because he violated town policy by driving it to a movie in Orchard Park last month.

It's yet another controversy surrounding the elected official ending his second year in office.

Casey said a 1981 opinion by the state comptroller's office and a February memo by Deputy Town Attorney Kenneth Farrell say the highway superintendent has control over how highway vehicles are used.

But both opinions say the vehicles cannot be driven for a personal use.

Town officials said there have been several instances in the last year when Casey's SUV was seen outside a golf course, Woodlawn Beach State Park during a highway superintendents' party and a restaurant.

"We thought, everybody else obeys the rules," Supervisor James M. Shaw said. "It was almost as if he was thumbing his nose at us."

So when a town employee snapped a photo of Casey's SUV outside Regal Quaker Crossing last month, that was the last straw. All five board members approved taking the vehicle for 60 days.

Ted Casey

Casey is to surrender the SUV by Friday. If he doesn't, the board directed the Police Department to seize it. He will be allowed to drive other Highway Department vehicles during work hours, according to the board.

[Hamburg highway superintendent calls being stripped of take-home vehicle 'petty politics']

In May 2018, Casey drove the town SUV to Philadelphia and got a ticket for running a red light. Town officials learned of the ticket when the city sent the ticket to the town.

At the time, the town had no policy forbidding employees from driving town-owned, take-home vehicles for personal reasons, but the board passed a policy after that episode. It allows the highway superintendent, police chief, code enforcement officer, dispatch coordinator and supervisor to drive town vehicles to and from home.

Casey said if he has gone to Wanakah Country Club or a restaurant, it was to meet with a resident about a highway issue.

He blames the controversy on "petty politics" and said he is considering challenging the board's action in State Supreme Court.

He said his troubles, which included a no confidence vote earlier this year by highway workers, are due to politics. He believes Councilman Tom Best Jr. is carrying a grudge because Casey beat his father, incumbent Highway Superintendent Tom Best Sr., in the 2017 election.

"This isn't me," Best Jr. said, noting that all five members of the board, Democrat and Republican, who don't always see eye to eye, voted to take away the vehicle. But he left no doubt about his feelings about Casey. "Believe me, I think the guy is a disaster."

"This is petty politics over 6.2 miles," Casey said, referring to the distance between his home and Regal Cinemas at Quaker Crossing in Orchard Park, where a town employee saw his car the evening of Nov. 19.

"I am on call 24 hours, seven days a week. That's the commitment I made to the public," Casey said.

Casey is no stranger to local controversy. Town highway workers passed a vote of no confidence in Casey in April. That was two months after he hired his son as a laborer.

Shaw said Casey lobbied him for more money to continue overseeing the Buildings and Grounds Department shortly after he took office. The board relieved him of the duties last January.

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