SARANAC LAKE - The village Board of Trustees has restored village Manager John Sweeney's power to fire employees.
Following a public hearing last week, the board voted 4-0 to approve a local law that says "all power of removal of village employees previously given by law to the village Board of Trustees is hereafter vested and lies solely with the village manager." The law says any firing of a village employee shall be done by the village manager, "after taking into consideration the recommendation of the village board." The board will still have the final say on hiring employees.
The new law amends an old one that dates to May 2010 when the village board took away the village manager's authority to hire and fire employees.
Saranac Lake village Manager John Sweeney
(Enterprise file photo)
The current board has said it's comfortable restoring Sweeney's power to terminate employees since he's the one overseeing village workers on a day-to-day basis and is more familiar with the requirements of civil service law. They've also said there are times when the manager needs to act quickly and can't wait until the next village board meeting.
Trustee Allie Pelletieri was the only member of the board to ask questions about the change at last week's meeting. He asked if the board or village department heads will still be able to bring a motion or make a recommendation to fire an employee.
"We have to follow civil service rules and bargaining unit contracts," Mayor Clyde Rabideau responded. "It's a very laborious and detailed process. Could anyone bring up a motion? Sure. Whether it follows civil service rules or bargaining unit agreements, I wouldn't be able to tell you, but it does not preclude a motion to terminate an employee."
"I understand what the object of the law is," Pelletieri said. "What is the purpose? How does this improve our village operation or government?"
Rabideau said the village manager should have the authority to discipline and fire employees without interference by the board.
"To take that authority away from the village manager, in my estimation, undermines his ability to do his work as the chief administrative officer of the village of Saranac Lake," Rabideau said.
"Ultimately, the village manager reports to the village board," said Trustee Paul Van Cott. "Any action he takes or whoever is in that position takes, they're accountable to the village board, and we retain the authority to hire and fire a village manager at will. It gives credibility to the village manager."
"He's the guy on the ground. He's their direct supervisor," said Trustee Barbara Rice. "We'd undermine his position by removing that authority. It's important that he have that."
Pelletieri said firing someone is a very serious thing.
"I just wanted to make sure I understood," he said.
There were no comments from anyone in the audience during the public hearing.