Matthew D. English will earn $7,000 this year as the dog control officer for West Seneca, and several town residents and a Town Board member are complaining.
That’s because English already earns $78,950 a year as town highway superintendent.
It’s the second year English will receive the “stipend” on top of his regular salary, after he approached Town Board members to request it in 2010.
“It’s a money grab,” exasperated resident William Hanley pronounced at this week’s board meeting, before later backtracking on the statement, saying it might have been too strong. “Seven thousand dollars isn’t a lot of money, I suppose, but he’s already making about 80-something.”
Resident Beverly Leising suggested English might be “double dipping” by accepting the extra stipend of dog control officer, a responsibility she says the town folded into the Highway Department.
The town is required to have such an officer under the state Agriculture and Markets Law because West Seneca licenses dogs.
“If you have to have one, why don’t you hire one?” asked Leising. “If you think about it, English, with his salary, is making more than the supervisor. This affects his pension, his overtime. It affects everything.”
English was appointed unanimously Jan. 3, but Councilman John M. Rusinski admitted this week that he has buyer’s remorse.
“The question is, ‘What are you doing for that stipend?’ ” asked Rusinski, after Hanley and Leising raised the issue publicly at Monday’s meeting. “Does he field any phone calls? I don’t know. If he does, is it worth $7,000?” Leising posed that question to English on Monday .
English initially seemed taken off-guard by the pointed questioning but explained he fields calls for stray dogs, prowling skunks, deer in the roads and other animal-related complaints. He acknowledged that after getting complaints, he then contacts another highway employee to handle the matter, commonly referred to as “Truck 14,” and later completes or reviews any required paperwork, where applicable.
Besides responding to animal complaints, English’s duties as dog control officer also entail overseeing a Highway Department laborer who is assigned to make daily rounds to the town’s animal shelter to clean the facility and feed the animals, as well as acting as a liaison between the town and other agencies, including the SPCA and state Department of Environmental Conservation.
There’s plenty of added responsibility associated with the duties to justify the stipend, English said. “I actually asked for more,” he said. “Then, at the 2012 reorganization meeting, they said to me, ‘Is $7,000 enough?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ ”
He added: “I don’t think it’s a ‘money grab’ at all. It’s a service that got thrown on to me, and I deserve to get paid for it.”
Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said she didn’t want to comment on Rusinski’s change of heart about the dog control officer, choosing only to point out that the vote on English’s stipend was “unanimous.” She downplayed any notion of controversy about English.
Meegan said English was tapped with the dog control duties after former full-time officers William O’Neil and Al Kerner – who she said collectively earned $150,000 or more – no longer performed them when the department was dissolved a few years back.
English, she said, “was doing this without being compensated. He came to us … and he said, ‘I should get a stipend for that.’ ”
“We have to have someone designated to this,” Meegan added. “There’s a lot of work that goes along with it. There’s a lot of paperwork he does and a lot on the phones. It’s a non-issue.” Leising argued those duties should be considered part of the highway superintendent’s regular job.
Ire from residents over the stipend follows last year’s controversy over then-Youth, Recreation and Senior Services Director Mary E. Josefiak’s earning large amounts of overtime atop her 2012 annual salary of $83,796. A resolution put on hold earlier this month by the Town Board is poised to soon designate Josefiak as a full-time senior recreation therapist at a much lower annual salary of $59,631, breaking up the massive three-department director’s post.
The board expects to fill a 25-hour-per-week, part-time recreation director position at an upcoming meeting. The new position will pay $18 per hour, with no benefits.
Meanwhile, Rusinski – who said he believed he was voting for a monthlong interim dog control officer in the Jan. 3 resolution, and not extending English’s $7,000 annual stipend – said he has a better proposal.
“If there’s any small amount of paperwork to do or calls to make, I’ll do that and save the taxpayers $7,000,” Rusinski said.