A meeting of the Cheektowaga Town Board became heated tonight, when Supervisor Mary Holtz brought a motion to amend a town policy relating to the use of comp time.
The work of the town’s highway department is seasonal, with intense workloads during winter and spring; for snow removal and pothole repairs. The current departmental practice has been to allow employees to work double shifts during periods of intense workload, in exchange for off time during slower summer months.
The arrangement saves the town money by giving it the flexibility to handle periods of intense peek workloads without having to maintain that capacity all year round.
The Holtz move has confused taxpayers and political observers alike.
Why would Holtz promote a policy that would require increasing operating expenses for services that are already being provided more efficiently today? If her policy revision and been approved, the town would be forced to pay highway department employees time an a half.
In an intensive winter like the one we just had, that’s a lot of money.
At one point, Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner got up to speak forcefully on this issue — angry that he has been the target of “a political witch hunt” by the Councillors who are aligned with the former party chairman Frank Max.
Max had leaked details of an investigation into alleged corruption inside the highway department to media last month. That investigation was initiated by Town Supervisor Mary Holtz at the urging of Max, who made the allegations.
Wegner had ousted Max as Cheektowaga party chairman last year.
Wegner said that the “phony allegations” were “politically motivated” and have caused him stress and detrimental impacts on his family. He announced that he is getting a divorce that was due, in part, to this investigation.
Wegner has had a difficult year — and Max’s political agitations have caused him personal distress at an emotionally difficult time.
About a year ago, Wegner’s son had died of cancer at the age of 21. Those who knew him say he had a great personality, the kind of kid who was happy and popular and who everyone liked with lots of ambition. Understandably, the death has been particularly hard on Wegner.
He is in the process of selling his family owned bar on Clinton Street.
While speaking, Wegner announced that the Town Attorney will be receiving a notice of claim against the town. He intends to suit the town for $20 million.
Wegner attributes the adversarial relationship with Max to a situation in 2013, when a parks department employee and cousin of of Councillor Jim Rogowski (who is aligned with Max) was terminated for refusing to produce a doctor’s note while on permanent disability. The employee had later been found to be working as a BBX driver while seeking disability.
Wenger says he was told that a Max-aligned employee said to union members openly, “I’m not stopping until Wegner is done.” Max has been on a relentlessly bitter political assault against him ever since, he says.
The motion did not pass, as the Board could not find a quorum.
Operatives say that Max will suffer political backlash for his intensely bitter and emotionally brutal treatment of Wegner, who is a well liked personality by his supporters. Wegner is running for reelection this year.