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Parishville bookkeeper claims new town supervisor illegally tried to outsource her job

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PARISHVILLE - Parishville bookkeeper Cindy Wray and newly appointed Town Supervisor Rodney G. Votra agree they met behind closed doors earlier this month to discuss her post. But that’s about where their agreement ends.

Ms. Wray claims the new town supervisor told her he was going to outsource her position, a move she suggests is illegal.

But Mr. Votra said the discussion was simply to give her a heads-up that it was something he was thinking about and that he had no intention of relieving her of her duties at this time.

Ms. Wray also serves as the water clerk and is a member of the Teamsters Union Local 687.

Mr. Votra is in just his first month at the helm of the town after being appointed to replace Jerry Moore, the three-term supervisor who resigned from his post in February due to a conflict with his employment.

“He started (last) Monday and on Tuesday he told me behind closed doors that he was going to outsource my job. There was no board decision or anything,” Ms. Wray said. “He had contacted my union the previous Friday and asked my union behind my back to discuss this.”

Ms. Wray said after the talk with Mr. Votra, she was angry and confused about whether she still had a job.

She said she contacted union officials late last week to let them know of her situation and she received a letter last Friday pointing out to Mr. Votra that what he was doing was not allowed.

“I got a letter from the union lawyers and he is to refrain from making any more employment decisions,” Ms. Wray said. “The bookkeeper in the town of Parishville has always been on the union contract. When I was put on it, (the board members) were all passed out something and they all agreed to put me on. The next month, (Mr. Votra) and one of the other board members denied the minutes because they said the bookkeeper would make too much money.”

“She is covered by a collective bargaining agreement and that prohibits outsourcing and also prohibits management from doing bargaining unit work,” Teamsters Union Local 687 Business Agent Mickey Smith said.

Mr. Votra said he is simply looking to trim the town’s expenses.

“I did meet with Cindy. The sole reason was that outsourcing was something that I would be pursuing to save the town money. I was giving her a heads-up; that way she wouldn’t come to the office and be surprised. Obviously that backfired on me,” Mr. Votra said.

The bookkeeper referenced the Taylor Law, also known as the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act, arguing that their secret meeting was not allowed and that he was acting on his own without full board approval. She said he unilaterally can’t cut union jobs in town government.

“He thinks he can run the town by himself without the board’s help,” Ms. Wray said. “(The letter) says ‘On behalf of the union, you are refrained from making any employment decisions regarding Cindy or any other bargaining member and this is based on New York state law.’ What kind of person does this? I think he’s under a union right now. Why would he want to replace someone who makes the least amount on a contract?”

Mr. Votra said he had read the correspondence from an attorney representing the Teamster’s.

“That was misinformation that she gave you. I received a letter from a law firm in Syracuse stating that I had been speaking with Ms. Wray about her wages and changing her position in the town, which is not accurate at all,” Mr. Votra said. “I have been a member of the union for over 20 years and well understand the Taylor Law.”

The law allows state and local governments and other political subdivisions to negotiate and enter into written agreements with recognized public employee organizations.

“My point being is that he said that he was doing this to save the town money. I am the lowest paid on the union contract and he’s getting rid of me to save the town money?” Ms. Wray said.

Mr. Votra also works for the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department and is a member of the Law Enforcement Officers Union Council 82. He said the bookkeeper works under the direction of the town supervisor.

“Whether or not I keep Cindy on the payroll would be up to the supervisor, and town law states that the bookkeeper works under the supervisor,” he said. “Any supervisor in the past has been able to hand pick their bookkeeper without authorization from the board. This is not something that I would do. They are all aware of what’s going on.”

Council members Kari Tremper and Shirley Robinson both said that they recently talked with Mr. Votra about his meeting with Ms. Wray.

“I am aware of what’s going on because Rod called me after the meeting,” Ms. Tremper said. “The bookkeeper is directly an employee of the town supervisor, so what he does is his right.”

Ms. Robinson said she opposed the effort to replace the town’s bookkeeper.

“I’ve talked with him and told him to hold everything, whatever his plan was,” she said. “I don’t want anything to happen before it goes through the board’s approval and at this time I don’t see any reason for this happening.”

Ms. Robinson said Mr. Votra said he would think about it and consult with the board later.

“So at this point everything is on hold,” she said.

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