Colonie town employee demotions reversed

The town's spoils policy was enacted this year, under Mahan's administration.

Foley declined to comment on the case.

"I think it would be improper for me to say anything," he said last week.

United Public Service Employees Union Regional Coordinator Kathy Wright, who has been defending the men, said Foley's decision brings closure to the incident, even though Neeley and Romano were not completely exonerated of responsibility in the controversial paving job.

"We were pleased to see that Mr. Foley acknowledged that there were political overtones all over this, and there was nothing sinister about these employees' actions," said Wright.

Wright also said that, legally, this decision is the end of the road.

"The town has no place else to go," she said.

In June, 2008, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli audited the paving job, which took place under the former town administration, and determined that, while not illegal, the actions, which involved the use of town employees and equipment and the dumping of "spoils," a composite material of dirt, tree back and debris, on the property, were not made in the best interest of taxpayers.

After the audit results were released last summer, Mahan and her administration began looking into the details of the paving job, pledging to bring accountability to those who were responsible.

Neeley, of the town's Department of Public Works, and Romano, a highway maintenance supervisor, were put on 42-day suspensions in July. In August, the employees were subject to two days of public hearings presided over by Bethlehem hearing officer Paul Dwyer.

Several times throughout the hearings, Wright repeatedly called Mahan's motivation for pursuing discipline of the men "political."

In a statement released Thursday, March 26, Wright wrote that the men have been the subject of a "politically charged and motivated issue."

In September, the two filed separate lawsuits claiming that Mahan and the Town Board did not have the authority to discipline them, and that power fell to their immediate supervisor, Commissioner of the Department of Public Works Robert Mitchell.

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