One might wonder given recent events with the Town of Clarkstown’s Highway Department if the department is in danger of becoming known as ‘Clarkstown’s Demolition Derby Department’? Last year a couple of pieces of equipment were badly damaged while being operated by the relative of a town councilperson; nobody was injured but the expense to the Town’s taxpayers was considerable.
More recently, on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 a Town of Clarkstown Highway Department vehicle driven by Robert Sambevski rear-ended a Jeep Liberty which was coming to a stop behind a second vehicle that had already stopped due to congestion on Route 304 in Bardonia. The collision occurred just north of the traffic lights at the intersection of Bardonia Road and directly opposite the new CVS pharmacy which was undergoing construction at the time.
According to the Police Accident Report, Sambevski said that he “heard the sound of a car horn and checked his side view mirror”. He rear-ended the vehicle in front. As a result of the accident three people were transported to the hospital by Nanuet Ambulance and according to sources within the Town, Sambevski was shortly thereafter given a drug test the results of which are known to senior Town officials but have not been made public.
Several sources within the Town indicate that the drug test was “illegal” which may indicate that while the Town does not dispute that the test was properly conducted, or that the results are valid, the driver may have been within his rights not to have been asked to submit to any test after the accident. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations 382.303 with respect to post-accident testing it seems that a test for alcohol and controlled substances is not required unless there was both “bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the scene“ AND a “citation was issued to the CMV driver“. In this case it appears that, while three people were injured and transported via ambulance to the hospital, no citation was issued by the Clarkstown police officer to Sambevski.
Why then did Superintendent Ballard send his employee for a drug test and why has that action now become problematic for the Town?
Mr. Sambevski’s name came up last year in an operation run by Frank Sparaco and Superintendent Ballard to collect absentee ballots for the minority party lines to place Ballard’s name on those lines in the 2013 election for Highway Superintendent between him and Democrat Dennis Malone. The operations were spear-headed by County Legislator Sparaco while he was employed as a part-time $76,500 per year ‘Constituent Services Assistant’ in the Town’s Highway Department. Sambevski’s name also came up as an individual named on petitions being carried for and by Legislator Sparaco during last summer’s attempt by Sparaco to take over the Republican Party in Rockland County. Superintendent Ballard was intimately involved in this scheme and appears to have joined with the ex-Republican Party Chairman, Vinnie Reda, under Sparaco’s leadership in the attempt to overthrow elements in the Republican Party who were supporting changes County Executive Ed Day was attempting to bring to the County. The attempted putsch failed spectacularly with Sparaco subsequently being arrested and charged with numerous felonies associated with the filing of false election petitions.
Apparently upset with my suggestion that Highway Department employees were spending too much time metaphorically dialing for dollars to get Highways Superintendent Wayne Ballard re-elected in 2013, Sambevski’s wife, Antonia, began a blog in New City Patch in which she attempted to explain to a skeptical public the innermost workings of Ballard’s Highway Department and the circumstances surrounding her husband’s hiring. Hints were provided in the comments to her articles that a lawsuit might be filed and indeed such proved to be the case when Ballard, Sparaco and Vinnie Reda filed a defamation lawsuit against the author claiming he was “making them look like criminals”.
In her articles in New City Patch Antonia Sambevski stated that her husband was hired into the Highway Department in 2013 and that he was a Republican committee member who got to know Mr. Ballard over the past few years. She went on to offer that “when her husband’s business was slow he got his CDL (commercial driver’s license) and applied for a job in the Highway Department”.
According to Ms. Sambevski her husband was 4th in line for the two positions that were available at the time but he was hired after the “other applicants in front of her husband failed to provide what was necessary for new hires”. Ms Sambevski stated that the most Frank (Legislator Frank Sparaco) was “able to do” for her husband was to give him a “great recommendation”. She further offered that she was “an advocate for Frank” and that Sparaco and his family have been friends of the Sambevskis for some years. Her reason in putting pen to paper in defense of her husband’s hiring and in defense of Legislator Sparaco was that she was troubled Sparaco was being treated shabbily by the media and she couldn’t stand reading “Michael Hull’s innuendo and opinion”.
What opinion Ms. Sambeveski’s presently holds of Sparaco’s latest treatment by the media following his arrest is not known. However, it appears clear from her previous public comments that her husband, Robert, was hired on a probationary basis as there may have been concerns about his health. She commented that her husband was on a ‘special probation’ saying: “My husband has proved that he is not only healthy enough, he is more than able to meet the physical demands of the job”.
In September 2014, the Town of Clarkstown announced that it had retained Public Sector HR Consultants LLC of Glenville, NY to conduct a review of the human resources practices and issues of concern on application of civil service rules and regulations in the Highway Department under the management of Superintendent Wayne Ballard. Part of this review seems to have stemmed from questions that had arisen among highway department personnel as to whether there is an ‘in’ group who are favored by Ballard for working with him and Sparaco in collecting absentee ballots. When Sparaco’s position as a part-time $75,000 Constituent Assistant was unanimously eliminated by the Town Board, Ballard immediately rehired him as a Confidential Secretary at a salary of $103,600 supposedly to take over the functions previously held by Nancy Willen who resigned abruptly.
Whatever health issues Robert Sambevski may or may not have had that placed him on probation at his Highway Department job they did not seem to affect his ability to gather absentee ballots for Mr. Ballard. His activities on Ballard’s behalf were revealed in testimony before the Supreme Court State of New York on September 19, 2013. Sparaco was being questioned under oath about the activities of Highway Department personnel in gathering absentee ballots which were used to give the left wing Democratic Working Families election line to Republican Ballard in the November 5th election. Here is part of Sparaco’s testimony:
Q. Did you have any participation in a determination as to which persons would be responsible for picking up which ballots at the Board?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Okay. Could you explain the process by which that determination was made?
A. The best way to describe this would be that there were two absentee ballot drives going on at once. One I was conducting with volunteers, and one Wayne was conducting with volunteers. Wayne did his own thing and I did my own thing, so I had certain “captains”; mine included, John Perrotta, (nominal head of the Independence Party and Sparaco best friend from third grade), Robert Sambevski and Brittany Fonseca, to the best of my knowledge off the top of my head, and they were designated as pickup people.
Q. And that was picking up what?
A. Absentee ballots.
Q. The ballots themselves?
A. The ballots themselves from the Board of Elections. None of those people that I just mentioned picked up any Working Families ballots except for Robert Sambevski who picked up one I believe. I handled the Working Families Party pickup myself.
Q. Were there other people, however, who picked up Working Families ballots who were employees of the Department of Highways?
A. I believe, yes.
The financial liability to the Town’s taxpayers for this rear-end collision are not yet understood nor apparently are the legal implications of the drug test that was performed. We shall follow up with a later article as further developments occur.