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Aug 12, 2009 1:59 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board hears new information on highway superintendent question

Aug 12, 2009 1:59 PM

What appeared to be a dead issue got a second wind last week as Southampton Town officials discovered a potential loophole that might put the question of whether to change the position of highway superintendent from an elected office to an appointed one back on the table.

At a work session on Friday, Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray told the Town Board that it might be able to avoid having an appointed highway superintendent become a civil service employee by converting the post to that of a commissioner of public works. Such a post would be unclassified under civil service guidelines, Ms. Murray said, and that means the town would have the power to set qualifications for the job and could more easily remove someone from the post.

Two weeks ago, Ms. Murray told the board that, according to the New York State Department of Civil Service, an appointed highway superintendent would automatically become a civil service employee—and therefore subject to civil service standards and protection. It was news that seemed to turn most of the board members off the idea completely.

The board has been considering whether to put the question to a referendum and let the voters decide whether the highway superintendent should remain an elected post.

But even after hearing the new take on the parameters last week, a new sticking point emerged when the board learned that if it was an appointed position and the board made the change from highway superintendent to commissioner of public works, future Town Boards could reverse course and the town could 
end up with a highway superintendent with civil service protection.

At Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, Supervisor Linda Kabot said the issue would be resolved, one way or the other, by the board’s next meeting, on Tuesday, August 25. The proposal is subject to a mandatory referendum and in order to appear on the November 3 ballot, the Town Board has to act before Labor Day.

Ms. Murray said Tuesday that her office is looking into combining both changes—the one from elected to appointed as well as the creation of a commissioner of public works—in one ballot proposition.

Councilwoman Nancy Graboski proposed the idea of making the town’s highway superintendent and tax receiver positions appointed ones because, she said, those jobs have evolved into more professional positions. Opponents, including current Highway Superintendent Bill Masterson, have argued that an appointed position would become a political plum for the board members empowered to fill it.

There has been no change, however, regarding the information Ms. Murray got from the Civil Service department about the receiver of taxes position. An appointed receiver of taxes would be a civil servant, she said. The only difference would be that, unlike the highway superintendent position, which would be classified as “competitive” under civil service guidelines—requiring state qualifications and candidate testing—the tax receiver position would be classified as “non-competitive,” requiring only state qualifications, but not mandating the candidate be subjected to a civil service test.

The Town Board agreed to keep the public hearing on the highway superintendent issue open until August 25.

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Isn't it interesting that now that the winds are changing, those in power of Town Hall are worried about losing the grasp on certain elected positions. They want to appoint people they favor, stealing the election.
Are they worried that the electorate will not make the best choice, their choice?
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Aug 8, 09 1:02 PM
Commissioner of Public Works??
Highway Superintendent??
Who do they think they're kidding??

If it looks like a duck; swims like a duck; smells like a duck then it is a Highway Superintendent!!
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Aug 9, 09 1:53 PM
"If it looks like a duck; swims like a duck; smells like a duck then it is a Highway Superintendent!! "

Which is how it should be, and an elected position! Otherwise you're going to have some Town Board member's lout of an in-law appointed just to get him off the living room sofa.

Fear the Government that fears its citizenry!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 10, 09 1:41 PM
Nancy and Linda have already promised this job to a GOP committee member who has extensive landscaping experience.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 10, 09 5:07 PM
"Nancy and Linda have already promised this job to a GOP committee member who has extensive landscaping experience."

Awwww, that's garbage! You know this how?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 11, 09 2:37 AM
Just another thing the Government is taking away from the people. The current town board thinks the people of Southampton are idiots. We can't shut off lights, we don't know how to build things, we can't decide where to eat, we don't know how to put up signs, we can't go to the beach, we have to ask "permission" for everything. Here is another example of government overstepping its boundaries.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Aug 12, 09 3:01 PM
Of course the people of SH are not idiots. They rushed to reelect Masterson for decades so that he could keep the Republican golf fund raising events going at full tilt. This was better than a civil service lock in; the job and the dispensing of its vast funds was his by royal right. It would take a tsunami to cleanse Town Hall.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Aug 13, 09 11:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
How ridiculous a bomb thrower type mentality, Phanex. What does a golf tournament have to do with an election?
How does Town Hall figure in? It is at least 8 miles from the Highway Department. Typical Democratic crap. You really thnk your boy is up to the task of leading 65 employees? Take a GOOD look at him.
I know, you are one of the "disenfranchised" that the mean old Republicans have kept of of Town Hall forever, right? That song is old and tired, and has been the mantra of every ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Aug 13, 09 4:07 PM