Policy change draws complaints

JOHNSTOWN – Town residents and supporters of the town Highway Department turned out Monday to complain about an updated overtime policy that affects the highway workers.

More than two dozen residents attended the monthly Town Board meeting. Tempers flared during the public- comment section of the meeting.

“If I didn’t hate the Highway Department before, I’m starting to now,” Town Supervisor Nancy MacVean said during the meeting.

She also said during the meeting that since the town first started talking about the policy update, she has been threatened multiple times by unknown people. She said someone fired a shotgun and spun truck tires near her home. She did not suggest highway employees were making threats.

Many people in attendance Monday had questions about the overtime policy, which explains how overtime pay is determined.

In a statement to the public, MacVean said the update was the result of an audit done by New York State Comptroller’s Office. She said the change is not designed to cheat highway employees out of their overtime pay.

“We are not trying to punish the department,” MacVean said.

During February’s Town Board meeting, MacVean said state auditors reviewed the town’s budgeting and accounting over a three-month period. One of the auditors expressed concerns about the use of overtime in the town Highway Department, MacVean said.

According to MacVean, the audit discovered members of the Highway Department would use sick time or vacation time in the same weeks they would receive overtime pay at a rate of time and a half.

The Town Board approved the updated overtime policy at February’s meeting, but the board plans to make more changes in the coming months.

A copy of the audit, which was requested by Town Councilman Daryl Baldwin on Monday, has not been publicly released yet, MacVean said.

Baldwin questioned why the audit was brought up during the February meeting, but Cathi Radner, town attorney, said the board could discuss the findings of the audit before it’s released to the public.

Under the updated policy, if an employee were to use eight hours of personal time in a 40- hour work week but had to work extra time, he would not receive time-and-a-half pay unless he made up the personal time. Instead, he’d be paid at the normal rate for the additional hours.

Town Councilman Walter Lane said the auditors discovered the town already had a policy regarding overtime pay, but it was not clear.

The auditors wanted the town to update the old policy, Lane said.

Town Highway Superintendent T.J. Bradt said he has been following what he thought was the correct policy.

“How can you people say I did wrong?” Bradt asked the Town Board.

James Shutter, a town resident, praised the work of the Highway Department and criticized the Town Board.

“That is just not right,” Shutter said of the town’s treatment of the highway crews.

Tim Fry, a town resident, said the board should think about the highway crew’s responsibilities.

Dave Williams, a former Highway Department employee, said the town should realize the weather this year was particularly bad and required employees to work long hours.

“You can’t fault the guys for a bad year,” Williams said.

Buddy Gross, a former Fulton County Highway Department employee, said when he worked for the county, his department never had to deal with this type of treatment.

Kelly Bradt, wife of T.J. Bradt, called for MacVean to step down as supervisor.

“In a year and a half, Wizzy can have it,” MacVean said, referring to Baldwin, who has worked as a clown named Wizzy.

Lane said the board would meet to discuss how to continue to change the policy to be in line with the auditors’ suggestions.

Regarding alleged threats against MacVean, T.J. Bradt said he was unaware of them. He said none of his workers would risk their jobs over the OT issue.

Arthur Cleveland can be reached at acleveland@gmail.com