Chris Perry reappointed DPW director
GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council voted 5-2 to again appoint Christopher Perry as the Department of Public Works Director on Tuesday, just days after his sudden resignation that led to the initiation of an investigation into the conduct of Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr.
Perry’s reappointment effective today running through Dec. 31 was made during Tuesday’s regular Common Council meeting through the passage of an emergency resolution. The resolution states that Perry’s letter of resignation effective Friday raised issues that led to his departure and that the council subsequently voted to initiate an investigation into those allegations as authorized under the city charter.
The resolution goes on to state that Perry approached the city about returning to his position after learning of the council’s vote to conduct the investigation and that his reappointment is believed to be in the best interest of the city by the council and Mayor Vincent DeSantis.
The Common Council during a special meeting on Thursday approved a motion 5-1 to initiate an investigation into the “affairs and conduct” of Rowback in accordance with city charter provisions. Rowback was not permitted to vote on the motion. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio voted against the action.
The city charter permits the Common Council to investigate city affairs and the conduct of any city department, agency or office with the power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require the production of evidence.
In his letter of resignation submitted to the city, a copy of which was obtained by The Leader-Herald through a Freedom of Information Law request, Perry accused Rowback of “repeatedly” insulting and degrading Mayor Vincent DeSantis while speaking to Perry.
“It is no accident or coincidence that residents have grown increasingly more condescending and negative in the past two months. Residents parrot back to me the same insults and degrading comments — almost verbatim — regarding Vince DeSantis that Bill Rowback has made repeatedly to me during my time here. Nearly every discussion inevitably went down the path of Vince DeSantis character assassination — which I found deeply troubling to say the least,” Perry wrote.
The letter additionally alleges that Rowback told other individuals that Perry should be terminated, with that information passed on to Perry. Perry attributed his departure in part to the political climate in the city and his belief that he would not be reappointed in 2022 if Rowback runs for and is elected mayor in November.
Shortly after calling Tuesday’s Common Council meeting to order, DeSantis reported that Perry had approached the city asking to be reinstated as DPW director. Prior to submitting his resignation, the council during the annual organizational meeting on Jan. 1 had reappointed Perry as DPW director through Dec. 31.
“I think this is a wonderful thing for us because there are so many things that we are able to do with him that would be very difficult, very difficult, without him,” said DeSantis.
Since he first took on the job in March, DeSantis and the Common Council have commended Perry for his contributions to the city as DPW director, attributing to his oversight the increased efficiency of the department, streetscape enhancements, park beautification and snow removal improvements.
The Common Council took up the emergency resolution on Perry’s reappointment presented by 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski and seconded by 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds, opening the floor to discussion.
Before council discussion commenced, city labor attorney Bryan Goldberger recommended the resolution be amended to reflect the annual salary for the position as previously set in the city budget at $70,000, the inclusion of a $1,500 administrative wage stipend to Perry for this year previously approved by the council and that the appointment is governed by the provisions of the city’s personnel policy for non-represented employees.
First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss motioned to modify the resolution as recommended which was seconded 3rd Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth “Betsy” Batchelor.
As the floor was opened for discussion on the modification, Rowback took the opportunity to raise objections to Perry’s reappointment and to refute the accusations included in his letter of resignation.
“I believe it is in the city’s best interest to tread carefully in considering his request,” said Rowback. “I urge the council to question whether reinstating Mr. Perry is in the city’s best interest without a plausible explanation for his change of heart. What is to say he will not make the same decisions a week from now or a month from now? Certainly, it appears his time with the city is limited.”
Rowback noted that Perry stated in his resignation letter that he had accepted another position with a non-profit and that he regretted accepting the position with the city primarily due to the local political climate and the negative attitude and comments residents have made during his tenure.
Rowback went on to reject claims that he told any residents or city employees that he would terminate Perry if he is elected mayor. However, Rowback did not specifically address Perry’s statements regarding comments directed towards DeSantis.
“His claims of what I said regarding his position at DPW are untrue,” said Rowback. “These allegations are completely hearsay and would be inadmissible in any formal proceeding. Mr. Perry does not even identify the individuals … But more than that the statements are false.”
As Rowback concluded, Siarkowski interjected that the council was discussing amendments to the emergency resolution. The council then voted 6-1 to approve the recommended modifications to the resolution, with Anadio voting against the amendment.
As the council then opened the floor to discussion of the resolution to appoint Perry, Anadio raised concerns regarding the revelation of Perry’s concerns through his submission of a resignation letter. She noted that the city previously developed policies for the handling of employee complaints that were not followed.
“I think that it was handled incorrectly,” said Anadio. “If he’s going to be a department head, he should certainly know the procedures.”
“When the members of the Common Council read the resignation letter of DPW Director Chris Perry, we were concerned,” responded Siarkowski. “Under the authority of the charter of the city it was decided by a council majority to investigate any allegations that were mentioned in the letter and any other incidents that could be considered germane to the situation at hand. We do not take this responsibility lightly.”
The council has formed a committee to conduct the investigation comprised of Siarkowski as chairman and Simonds, both Republicans, and Weiss, a Democrat.
“We will allow anyone with pertinent information to testify before this committee,” said Siarkowski.
Upon the conclusion of the investigation, Siarkowski noted that the committee will bring its findings to the full Common Council for a final decision. According to Siarkowski, Perry contacted the mayor seeking to be reinstated as DPW director after seeing how seriously the council took his concerns.
“The mayor contacted the council members, and it was decided that it was in the best interest of the city of Gloversville to do so. In the short time he has been here, Mr. Perry has done an outstanding job, that is why this [emergency resolution] is now before the council,” said Siarkowski.
But Anadio questioned the broader implications of an employee resigning from the city and then seeking to return only after an investigation of another individual has been opened. She went on to ask if Perry would be withdrawing his letter of resignation.
“This letter is mute if he’s coming back,” said Anadio. “Because then he should go through the formal procedure that he should have done in the first place.”
Simonds responded that Perry requested his reinstatement due in part to his feeling that he was leaving the city “in the lurch” and that he had expressed gratitude that the city was at least looking into his concerns.
According to Simonds, the proper procedure for handling any future concerns has been explained to Perry and that the council members subsequently determined that it was acceptable to pursue his reappointment.
“As far as discussing anything about Bill, I can’t discuss anything about Bill,” said Simonds. “I can’t say anything about it because we’re in the middle of an investigation.”
The discussion ended as Batchelor questioned whether it was appropriate, and DeSantis called for the emergency resolution to put to a vote.
The Common Council ultimately approved Perry’s reappointment as DPW director 5-2, with Rowback and Anadio voting against the resolution.