JOHNSTOWN - The town supervisor says her board's failure to approve a $400 budgeted salary increase last month may force residents into a public referendum over a new local law, as well as paying all the associated legal fees.
Town Supervisor Nancy MacVean said this week a local law seeking approval from voters is the only way her raise can be "rescinded" - her characterization of the Town Board's decision to set her salary at an amount lower than the allotment in the 2013 budget.
"According to the lawyer I talked with at the Association of Towns, they have to have a local law for that," she said. "It'll probably cost more to have an attorney draw it up and have a referendum.
A discussion about a potential local law was on the agenda of Monday's Town Board meeting, but that part of the meeting was held in a closed session as it involved an employee's employment history.
The 2013 spending plan budgeted $14,075 for the supervisor and $4,989 for the budget officer - a position traditionally held by the supervisor. But after questions about MacVean's duties and performance in the budget officer role during the Jan. 7 organizational meeting, the board decided to not reappoint her, and also approved setting her supervisor salary at $13,663 - the same as 2012. MacVean also earns $7,505 for representing the town at the county level.
"The budget is not a commitment to what we'll pay; it's a commitment to the top," Councilwoman Beth Schloicka said in the town clerk's recording of the January meeting, denying that MacVean's raise was taken away.
Town Board members also agreed to forgo their own raises, setting annual salaries at $2,362, with Councilwoman Tamara Healy earning an additional $500 as deputy supervisor.
Town Attorney Cathi Radner said in an email Wednesday she couldn't comment on the salary issue.
MacVean on Monday reignited some of the salary and performance discussion when she told the board she'd appointed Valerie Redhead, a bookkeeper and former head bank teller, to be the budget officer.
"Do you have the authority to make that appointment unilaterally?" asked Councilwoman Beth Schloicka, who previously has criticized MacVean's handling of the budget officer duties.
MacVean responded that an Association of Towns attorney assured her the Town Board did not have a say in the appointment, adding that there was no reason she should continue to do the work unpaid.
"Since you took my salary [as budget officer] down to zero, why should I bother?" she asked, leading some council members scrambling for their notes to prove her wrong.
The budget officer salary was not scheduled to increase in 2013 but also was not reduced to zero, according to Town Board minutes. All four members voted against the resolution in January that would have reappointed MacVean.
Schloicka was especially vocal about MacVean's performance in that meeting, according to the recording, noting the supervisor had at times been slow to respond to financial questions - sometimes taking months to get answers - and likened part of the job to "filling in blanks"
MacVean responded she did the same work as her predecessor, Jack Wilson, whom she defeated in the 2011 primary and general election, and accused Town Board members of not giving her the same respect.
"What have you done as supervisor besides cause issues for us? I'm just curious," Schloicka said, according to the recording.
"You are the people causing issues," MacVean answered, as Healy tried to restore order.
"Glare all you want, honey, it isn't going to work with me," Schloicka is heard on the tape before MacVean banged her gavel and issued a warning.
"For what?" Schloicka asked.?
"General municipal law," MacVean responded.
"Says what? I can't disagree with you?" Schloicka asked.
"That you can't be antagonistic and argumentative and just trying to upset the meeting," MacVean said.
Schloicka and Healy did not return phone messages seeking comment.
Councilmen Daryl Baldwin and Walt Lane said the board had agreed to wait until the end of summer to appoint a budget officer, which MacVean confirmed. Both said they would not be against MacVean preparing the budget again.
"She did an all-right job of getting the budget together this time," Lane said. "I realize it was the first time she had to do it, so I expected she'd go through bumps in the road, but I thought [the budget] was well presented."
Redhead's appointment as budget officer may run into a snag as town officials this week confirmed she lives in Saratoga County.
"A town budget officer must reside in the town under most circumstances, as such, the supervisor will review her appointment," Radner said in response to an email from The Leader-Herald, which was copied to MacVean and three members of the Town Board.