It was supposed to be a reorganization meeting.
But the Hamburg Town Board’s meeting Monday night was anything but organized as two new members surprised and shocked a packed board room with changes in personnel, elimination of stipends and an attempt to terminate the contract for the police chief.
“There’s going to be some bumps along the way,” Councilman Michael Quinn Jr., one of the two Democrats elected in November, said.
It was a bumpy night, starting with the special meeting called by Supervisor Steven Walters a half-hour before the annual reorganization meeting. He tried to go into an executive session for what he said was to discuss “personnel,” but Quinn and Cheryl Potter-Juda refused to second his motion.
“If you want an executive session we’re willing to do it after the regular meeting,” Potter-Juda said.
“This is unprecedented,” Walters said. “This is a great way to start cooperating.”
The three-hour meeting was marked by a number of residents commenting on many of the resolutions before the board voted.
“Why is this being done?” former human resources consultant Brian Doyle asked when Potter-Juda and Quinn proposed terminating the contract of Police Chief Michael Williams immediately.
“It’s because they can, and they don’t like the chief,” Walters, the lone Republican on the board, said.
Quinn said the current board cannot be bound to adhering to a contract approved by a previous board, and he cited a recent State Supreme Court case involving Hamburg Village Police Chief Dennis Gleason. He said he and Potter-Juda believe it is their duty to save money and possibly negotiate a lower salary with the chief.
“This is really a fiscal issue,” he said. “We will not be bound by that contract.”
The chief was angry and wanted to know why Potter-Juda did not personally contact him. She said Quinn had talked to the chief. Because of the uproar that ensued, the board tabled the measure.
The board also tabled a measure that would have appointed former Assistant Police Chief Steven Mikac as assistant superintendent of buildings and grounds. Earlier in the meeting, the board eliminated the $2,500 stipend Highway Superintendent Tom Best gets for being the superintendent of buildings and grounds. “Am I still head of buildings and grounds?” he asked, “because you took my stipend.”
Mikac would have received $23,500, and Potter-Juda suggested changing the name of the job to superintendent.
The supervisor abstained on many appointments, including that of the town attorney, Walter Rooth III, who unsuccesfully ran against Walters, and deputy town attorney Craig Cwick, as well as a consulting agreement with John Jordan to be town prosecutor.
Resident Lana Tupchik objected to Rooth’s appointment, saying he had a conflict of interest with his father, Town Justice Walter Rooth. She also said Cwick was in business with Town Justice Gerald Gorman.
Board members also tussled over the department liaison appointments. Potter-Juda and Quinn had prefiled the appointments, but Walters said that only the supervisor could make those appointments. He cited a court case having to do with a similar situation several years ago in Clarence. Rooth said the court decision indicated that past practice should be followed and that in Clarence, the supervisor made the appointments. But in Hamburg, the board has voted on them at the reorganization meeting.