Residency of transit head at issue

GLOVERSVILLE – The Common Council and mayor are waiting for the city’s labor attorney to say whether local law can be changed to allow the transit manager to continue to hold his job without living in the city.

The issue came up last week, when city resident Bob Castiglione told officials Transit Manager William Walrath is holding a department head position without being a resident of the city, which violates state and local law.

At the Common?Council meeting, Castiglione read part of the city charter that relates to non-elected city officials required to be city residents, and the removal of such officials if they no longer reside in the city, before Mayor Dayton King cut him off for being over the three-minute time limit.

After the meeting, King said the issue is presently in the hands of Bryan Goldberger, the city’s labor attorney.

Goldberger didn’t return phone calls seeking comment on the matter.

On Monday, Walrath declined to comment on the matter, but did say he is a resident of Northville and not the city.

Castiglione said his reason for bringing the issue up wasn’t anything personal against Walrath, but to hold public officials accountable to uphold the law.

An issue arose in June 2011 regarding Walrath after King appointed him to the mobility manager position without council approval. King said because the Transit Department was not specifically listed in the charter, the appointment did not require council approval.

However, the city – through a public referendum – later added the Transit Department to the City Charter to avoid any future appointment issues.

Now that Walrath’s department is within the charter, it appears he is required to live within the city, according to local and state laws.

According to the city charter:

“Every elected or appointed city officer shall possess the qualifications prescribed by [a section of the state] Public Officers Law, except that all appointed unpaid board and commission members and the following appointed city officers need not be residents of the city but must be residents of Fulton County, New York: city assessor, city clerk, deputy city clerk and commissioner of finance.”

A section of the Public Officers Law allows police and fire chiefs to reside outside the city where they work.

The charter states when any elected city officer or appointed city officer ceases to be a resident of Gloversville, the officer’s office should become vacant.

Second Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds said the council is still unsure how the charter changing after Walrath’s appointment was made will impact the residency issue, which he said Goldberger is looking into.

King said he believes the issue will have one of two outcomes.

“We will follow the rules,” King said. “If [the charter] says Bill needs to become a city resident we’ll give him the option of becoming a city resident. If he wants to live here and continue his job here, great. If we are able to pass a local law that says that he can live within the county and still do his job, I’d advise we do that.”

He said Walrath has a family and uprooting it for the position may be difficult.

King noted most department heads don’t live within the city including both of the fire and police chiefs, the clerk and finance commissioner.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio said she believes the council should follow the law and will address the issue once it has heard back from Goldberger.

However, Anadio said it wouldn’t be smart for the city to change the local law to allow Walrath to live outside the city.

Simonds said the city didn’t really consider Walrath’s residency because he was being paid through a federal grant that came to an end earlier this year. Once that grant came to an end the council had to start thinking about the issue, he said, which happened about six months prior to Castiglione’s comments.

“I think to some people it came as a surprise,” Simonds said. “Because it was a federally funded job, nobody really paid much attention to it because the money and restrictions were all federal. That’s not the case anymore. At this point it’s going to be dealt with but I don’t know when; probably not until the first of the year.”

He said Walrath has been doing a great job and he’d hate to inconvenience him but, “if it’s a rule of the city and the city can’t change it then unfortunately he’s going to have to move into the city.”

In January, the council reappointed Walrath as transit manager at an annual rate of $52,000.