It was pretty much back to business as usual Monday night in the Village of Corfu, which should be good news for residents concerned about the possible loss of the village clerk and assistant.
Sandra Thomas, the village clerk/treasurer and Denise Beal, assistant, returned to work Monday, following a week of turmoil sparked by an incident between the two employees and Mayor Ralph Peterson.
Thomas had no statement about her return to work, but smiled and said yes when asked if she was glad to be back.
In a budget meeting Monday, the trustees got down to business and, compared to a board meeting a week ago, there was much less rancor and a greater focus on getting work done.
The current budget proposal -- which is still in draft -- would raise the village property tax rate from
$2.19 $2.97 per thousand to $4.20 per thousand.
A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday.
The meeting opened with a presentation by Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC. Earlier this year, Masse learned that a new grant became available through the USDA's Office of Rural Development for certain types of job creation projects.
The planned expansion of the village sewer treatment plant in conjunction with the Town of Pembroke is a qualifying project.
The expansion at cheese maker Yancey's Fancy depends on the sewer project, Masse said.
"We really need the sewer project," Masse said.
The board approved applying for the $99,999 grant ($1 less than $100,000, Masse said, because the scoring of the application goes down with that additional dollar).
The section of the budget discussed was the Village Court.
Newly elected village justice David O'Connor (top photo) made it clear right away he wasn't happy with Peterson's proposal to eliminate the full-time court clerk position and replace it with two part-time positions.
"With the case load we have, we should have one full-time and one part-time clerk," O'Connor said. "The paperwork with one traffic ticket is about an inch high and if you don't get it right, it's not fair to the people and guess who it all falls on? Me."
The Pembroke Town Court has two full-time clerks to handle 3,400 cases a year. Corfu's case load is 2,600.
O'Connor praised current clerk Pam Yasses and said she is doing an outstanding job of handling court business by herself.
Yasses said there is minimal need for a part-time clerk, but she would like to have help on court night.
At the request of O'Connor, Peterson reappointed Yasses as clerk. If the budget is approved, the position will be full time.
Some residents questioned and pushed back on the idea that O'Connor will only be paid $15,000 this year when last year the justice was paid $17,000.
O'Connor said several times, "I'm OK with $15,000."
During the discussion, Yasses noted that in 2011, the last year Brandi Watts served as clerk, the court collected $221,144, while in 2012, the first full year Yasses handled court duties, ticket fines jumped to $309,726.
Watts is the daughter of former justice Robert Alexander.
A comptroller's audit alleges that at least $10,000 was missing in 2011 from the court's treasury, but some village residents fear the number could be higher.
There was also concern, noted in the comptroller's audit, that Watts often wasn't in the office when people came in to pay traffic fines.
A special prosecutor is now overseeing the State Police investigation into the alleged missing funds.
Perhaps the most contentious issue of the evening had to do with the police department and how administrator Jim Meier is scheduling work hours for all of his part-time officers.
Recently, part-time officer Gene Nati has complained that the officers hired through the civil service process (competitive hires) are being given almost no hours, while non-competitive hires are being given, in some cases, more than 19.5 hours per week.
Nati brought the issue to the attention of Karen Marchese, HR director for Genesee County, complaining that civil service law prevents non-competitive employees from working more than 19.5 hours a week when there are competitive employees on staff.
Marchese wrote a letter to Peterson on April 10 informing him that working non-competitive staff more than 19.5 hours a week is a violation of the civil service law.
At a meeting on April 10, Nati demanded the mayor enforce the language of the letter immediately, requiring Meier to start scheduling more hours for competitive employees.
"Karen Marchese may have some ax to grind against the village," Meier said.
Peterson gave Meier until Monday (yesterday) to bring forward information that would back his position.
According to Peterson, he spoke with Marchese yesterday (she reportedly retired Friday), and Marchese stood by her letter of April 10. (UPDATE: County Manager Jay Gsell said this morning that Marchese's last day was yesterday.)
"I would like us to come into compliance," Peterson said. "In my position, I'm the one who got the formal letter saying we're not in compliance. It's my name on the letter. I would like to be in compliance until it's resolved."
Meier asked for more time, saying Marchese did not return his calls all last week and other people who can help provide information that will back his position have not returned his calls.
He said if he starts scheduling competitive employees for more hours, and the non-competitive can't work more than 19.5, the village will be left without police protection at times, because the competitive employees often call in sick.
County officials have been aware of what Corfu has been doing for a long time, Meier said, and nobody at the county raised a red flag until this month.
"The fact is, we've been scheduling non-competitive employees for more than 19.5 hours a week for four years and it hasn't been an issue until a lone person went to Karen Marchese last week and complained," Meier said.
Trustee Art Ianni expressed concern that this issue was being used to undermine the authority of the police administrator.
In the end, Peterson agreed to give Meier until May 1 to either get another opinion the village can rely on or change his scheduling practices to comply with Marchese's opinion of civil service law.