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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Youth Director Under Desso's Gun

Well it's happened yet again. Lou Desso is applying pressure to Youth Director Jerry Sickles to pack his bags so Lou can use the position to curry some additional favors. Last year, Sickles was the victim of Desso's shoot first and ask questions later style of managing when he was falsely and very publicly accused of misconduct only to have the matter dropped because there was no credible evidence to back up the claims.

Now a year later, Desso and Councilman Al Spain who is a Personnel Director in Troy, took Sickles aside in a room last week in town hall and asked him to resign, out the door! Why the rush? Apparently Desso is in the process of making a deal with a fellow Conservative whom he does not want to see run in a primary for the town board seat Desso's must run for this fall. The Conservative employee is the Building Department head Michael Miner who racked up an impressive 1000 votes in the general election after he handily defeated fellow Conservative Mark Evers for the Conservative line in a primary last September. The timing of the move, coincidentally, is in line with the first week to circulate designating petitions for these party nominations. Desso does not want Miner to challenge his ride to the Conservative line.

We heard about the deal thanks to former Conservative Councilman Ernie Kern, who appeared none to happy about it. Kern was defeated in that same Conservative Primary for his Town Board seat by Kelly Hoffman and Joe Bott, both of whom went on to win town board seats in the general election.

Here's the rub on the way Lou Desso and Al Spain operate. No board member has the authority to hire or fire anyone. That takes a vote of the town board which has to be held in a lawfully noticed meeting and not in a back room with two town board members on a mission to finish off an employee they have apparently targeted for elimination. Trouble is at this meeting, Desso indicated that a unanimous vote of the board had already occurred and that Sickles was terminated as of 4:30 PM last Friday afternoon. No such luck though as Sickles knew no such meeting had occurred and he continued to work this week. They were apparently trying to bluff him into resigning by saying he would get some kind of buy out if he left. Sickles is just two years away from retirement.

This time, there has apparently been no charge that Sickles has done something to deserve termination. So there has been no PR disaster reminiscent of last year's fiasco when Sickles was castigated publicly for conduct which could not be substantiated.

But Sickles is staying on the job unless the Town Board is willing to publicly fire him and that's likely to cause the kind of public exposure candidate Desso neither wants or can afford. They are going to try it as it's on this Thursday's agenda. They will try to claim the reason is the deficit. But a plan to give Miner part of Sickles $30,000 salary could just as easily be reducing him to part time status. But Desso wants him out, period.

It's interesting that they would attempt to put Mr. Miner in the position for an extra 10 grand on top of his salary. For some time its been clear that the Building Department is overstaffed. The Board continues to fund a $45,000 job for a Utilities Inspector who was hired to inspect the long ago "completed" Water District 14, although we hear they may finally at least cut that to part time. And it allows a Fire Marshall to work four 10 hour days so he can also work in Troy as full time fireman where he is given health insurance while grabbing an incredible $6,000 buy out payment in North Greenbush for not taking health insurance here that he already gets in Troy.

Speaking of those buyouts and their $40,000 annual cost to the town, the twice a year checks are due to go out in June. Fifty percent of the payments to town hall employees are paid in June so North Greenbush taxpayers, struggling with an estimated $170,000 deficit, get no sympathy from the folks in town hall that Desso and company continue to fund.

Evidently though, it may become clear that the Building Department is overstaffed. Certainly if Building Inspector Miner has time to do the Youth Director's job in addition to his own $46,000 position, they must not have that much work to do. Maybe its the recession and the significant drop in building permits in the town that tells the best story. Some $150,000 was budgeted for permit revenue in the budget last year with less than a third of that coming in. Good thing we have at least 3 full time employees to handle all those inspections resulting from the massive drop in demand for those services via the decline in permits. Yet the jobs continue to be funded as if there were a building boom!

So now we will likely see another casualty of the deficit, sadly not the most deserving casualty. Just as former employee Ed Casino should have been retained over others who frankly do far less in town employment in a week than Casino did in a day. He was a hard worker and his absence can be seen in and around town hall.

We hope that Mr. Sickles goes down shooting. He didn't deserve the treatment he got last year and he doesn't deserve to be fired so part of his salary can be used to pacify another full time employee with his own civil service title and job description.

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