Colonie town board demotes two over scandal

Two town employees under scrutiny for their involvement in the paving of the lot at Albany Rod and Gun Club were demoted after a Thursday, Dec. 4, executive session of the Colonie Town Board.

The demotions of William Neeley, formerly the town's public works operations supervisor, and Thomas Romano, former highway maintenance supervisor, went into effect Monday, Dec. 8. Neeley's new title, senior civil engineering technician, will result in a salary cut of $13, 716, and Romano's new title, civil engineering technician, will reflect salary losses of $9,804.

Public Service Employees Union Regional Coordinator Kathy Wright, who is representing Neeley and Romano, said the men are planning to appeal the decision.

The penalties stem from an incident that occurred in spring 2007, when town employees and town equipment were used to pave the lot at the West Albany Rod and Gun Club on Willoughby Avenue. The paving job involved the dumping of spoils, a composite material of dirt, debris and tree bark.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli audited the paving job and found the former town administration, under then-Supervisor Mary Brizzell, acted in a manner that was not in the best interest of taxpayers, and chose an option that cost taxpayers about $48,000 more than alternative. DiNapoli's findings, which implicated the department supervisors, were released in June.

Since the new administration took office nearly a year ago, Supervisor Paula Mahan has sought accountability from the supervisors who were involved in the job. The town has also adopted a policy that more clearly defines where spoils can and cannot be dumped in the event that there is excess.

Town officials called for hearings before Bethlehem Justice Paul Dwyer in August to discuss the involvement of Neeley and Romano. Prior to the hearings, the men were suspended without pay for five weeks. Before the results of the hearings were decided by town officials and Dwyer had the chance to pass on his recommendations, Neeley and Romano filed lawsuits against the town stating that only their supervisor, not Mahan, should have had the power to discipline them. The lawsuits have not yet been settled.

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