MASSENA - An amendment to the village's hiring policy placing more power in the hands of elected officials sparked controversy Tuesday night.
When the village receives a pile of applications for a job, the elected board members, not the department heads, will now have the authority to select five candidates to be interviewed.
The change essentially strips department heads of that power. Trustee Francis J. Carvel proposed the amendment, which the village board voted 3-2 to approve.
The policy mirrors the town's and was an attempt to make village hires less controversial, Mr. Carvel said. By entrusting the board's personnel committee with the task, there's a better system of checks and balances, he said.
"Any appointment is political. If it's going to be political, then the politicians should be involved in it, because they're the ones in the long run that have to take the heat for any appointment," he said.
The village's fire and police departments are exempt from the policy because of state civil service requirements, according to Fire Foreman R. Shawn Gray. That means the Department of Public Works and Treasurer's office are among those affected by the change.
Mayor James F. Hidy and Patricia K. "Trish" Wilson dissented on the amendment.
"I think were taking a lot of the responsibility out of the hands of the department heads," Mr. Hidy said. "If (they) doesn't have the responsibility to see ... who's the most qualified, then we're into blind faith here, you know?"
The discussion grew heated when Mr. Hidy suggested the real reason behind the change was an alleged vendetta Mr. Carvel has against the DPW and its superintendent, Hassan A. Fayad. Mr. Carvel is a retired DPW foreman.
"It's you against the DPW again," Mr. Hidy said.
"It doesn't cover only one department," Mr. Carvel responded.
"Francis, you can sit there and try to rationalize it all you want. That's the observation I'm getting from this. I think you're wrong," Mr. Hidy said.
"You observe what you want to observe," Mr. Carvel said.
Ms. Wilson also voiced her concern of taking hiring input away from department heads.
"They're going to be working day to day with whoever is going to be hired in their department," she said. "I don't feel the board members have the right qualifications to select who we're going to be interviewing."
Neither policy is totally fair, Ms. Wilson said.
"Either way it's going to be lopsided," she said. "Either way there's an opportunity for unfairness."
Mr. Carvel said the change in policy stems from the December 2009 DPW hiring of Nicholas G. Shakallis, a Virginia native who Mayor Randy G. DeLosh characterized as a friend of the family. The hiring caused a public uproar and prompted the board to increase its scrutiny of personnel policies.
"A fellow from Virginia who came here a few years ago was what prompted this," Mr. Carvel said.
Mr. Fayad was also against the board making the change.
"Personally I don't think the current system is broken," Mr. Fayad said.
At the end of the meeting, former Mayor Charles R. Boots blasted Mr. Hidy for his attitude.
"To go back and forth and accuse one person of saying what you had to say tonight Mr. mayor is totally, as far as I'm concerned, out of line," he said.
If Mr. Hidy could circumvent his board to hire employees, he would, Mr. Boots said.
"You would put anybody in a position of anything that was open at your disposal, without having any approval from anybody else," he said.
"I don't understand how you would rationalize that," Mr. Hidy responded. "I think you're out of line. You're saying I'm going to hire somebody. I don't even know what you're talking about ... I didn't get off the turnip truck yesterday."
"The day before, maybe," Mr. Boots said.
In a small town, applicants and candidates often have connections to department heads and board members, Mr. Hidy said. He questioned why Mr. Boots, a retired MCHS faculty member hired Mr. Fayad, an alumnus, during his tenure.
"He's from Massena. He was going to live here,' Mr. Boots said. "We do our best to hire Massena people."
"You knew him to be a good person through school," Mr. Hidy said.
"That's correct," Mr. Boots replied.
That connection proved Mr. Hidy's point, he said.
"Thank you very much. You have supported me and I appreciate that whether you realize it or not, you did," he told Mr. Boots.
"No I didn't, Jimmy," Mr. Boots said.