BREAKING NEWS: Highway Department Report Referred To District Attorney For Criminal Investigation

 

image

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.  The only objection raised against the hiring of this particular firm came from Democrat Shirley Lasker who claimed she had a firm more familiar with the Town of Clarkstown who could have conducted the review at a slightly lower cost.  She was over-ruled by the majority of the Town Board members who accepted Republican Goeorge Hoehmann’s proposal seconded by Republican Frank Borelli to hire this completely independent firm which had previously conducted similar reviews of other Highway Departments in New York State.

Several issues of concern were brought to the Board’s attention by Peter Bradley of the Clarkstown Preservation Society among others.  According to the newspaper ‘Our Town’ “the objective of the assessment was to help the Town determine if personnel practices and procedures are being applied fairly and consistently”. All employees of the Highway Department were being voluntarily interviewed with complete confidentiality.

Questions had arisen among highway department personnel as to whether there is an ‘in’ group who were favored by Ballard for working with him and Sparaco in collecting absentee ballots for Ballard’s election. 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.  Willen was also involved in collecting absentee ballots for Ballard and along with Ballard and Sparaco were forced to testify about these activities in a Supreme Court case involving the Working Families party in September 2013.

Ballard is also involved in a lawsuit against the Town claiming that the Town had no authority to consolidate the Town’s three garages under a Fleet Manager. Additionally, he is involved in a lawsuit against a private citizen who asked for an explanation in a public meeting of Highway Department expenditures that were brought forward in a public meeting to the Town Board by the Fleet Manager as warranting examination.

A copy of the Public Sector HR Consultants LLC report has been obtained by Rockland Voice. We have confirmed from three sources within the Town that this is a true and complete version of the document now in the Town’s possession.  Since this report was paid for with public funds we have placed a pdf copy of the report at this Google Docs link from which it may be downloaded and read in its entirety.  Rockland Voice has foiled the Town of Clarkstown for an original copy of the report which was apparently sent to one of the town attorneys on December 31, 2014.

The report is explosive in its findings which may be summarized as follows:

Out of seventy-four employees sixty-four (86.5%) voluntarily participated in the interviews.

Participants ranked the Highway Department on a scale of 1-5 (1 – If I had another job, I would quit through 5 – CHD is an excellent place to work and a model department).  Thirteen participants (20%) ranked the department as ‘4’ or above with only two participants giving it a ‘5’.  These participants said “we are like family” and “the reality is that our boss is an elected official and when it is an election year, the pressure is on and there are very high expectations”.

The majority of the participants (forty-seven, 73%) rated the work environment as a ‘2’ or a ‘3’ needing some to significant improvement. Five respondents (8%) rated the department as ‘1’.  In this group the participants felt that they had good jobs but expressed concern that over the past ten years the work environment has deteriorated continuously.

Overwhelmingly the participants regardless of rank or tenure cited politics and Ballard’s management style as the primary reason for the deterioration.

Many expressed the view that Ballard destroyed the morale of the department by dividing the workforce between his “political supporters” and “the opposition”.  The former group were deemed “loyal” to Ballard having been hired by him, helped him in his campaigns and were subsequently rewarded with promotions.  This group complained that the only way to progress under Ballard was to support his re-election campaigns.  Assertions were made that everyone is afraid of Ballard because he holds grudges and if he is crossed one can never recover.  Individuals stated that after the 2013 election they were “punished” by being reassigned from the crews they had been working on and placed into crews with other individuals who had not supported Ballard’s re-election.  These crews were allegedly given the poorest highway assignments, “watched“, “yelled at“, and “passed over” for promotions.  Several participants opined that Ballard promotes employees based on supporting his re-election campaigns and this has adversely affected productivity.

It was a common perception that Ballard is “never around and has no idea what is really going on in the department”. 

Assertions were made that there is no discipline when an employee violates work rules and accordingly some employees are “allowed” to report late for work, leave for extended periods, take unauthorized leaves of absence, start their workday later than other employees, and leave at 2:30 pm effectively ending their workday early.   Given this one might wonder why Ballard’s department has a need for employees to be paid overtime.

It is a common belief among the participants that the department has “cliques“. 

There is a group of “Waynes guys”.  Only 13 participants (20%) described their working relationship with Ballard as “decent“.  Eighty percent of the participants indicated that they have a poor or no working relationship with Ballard who is “never there“.  It is a common observation that on “the rare occasion” Ballard does interact with employees, he is “yelling” at them.  Ballard’s behavior by this 80% group is described as “erratic” and “aggressive“.

Over 50% of the participants indicated that issues related to the recent political campaign had impacted the work environment. 

Many participants complained about the appointment of County Legislator Frank Sparaco as Confidential Secretary to Ballard and the subsequent promotions of a number of employees after Ballard was re-elected.  Rockland Voice has obtained a copy of a foil of these promotions as of June 2014. Six individuals were promoted several of which were involved in Ballard’s re-election campaign and one of whom testified as to his role in the collection of absentee ballots with Frank Sparaco in a case in the Supreme Court.  We also note in the same list the promotion of a relative of Councilwoman Shirley Lasker who was hired in March 2012 and promoted in June 2014.   Democrat Lasker supported Republican Ballard’s re-election over that of her Democratic colleague, the Town’s Fleet Manager, Dennis Malone.

Several participants opined that Ballard is “desperate” to remain in office to accumlate 20 years in office presumably for pension purposes.  However, it has become increasingly clear that he will not receive the Republican Party’s nomination for the 2015 race and will have to depend on either Legislator Sparaco (whom Ballard fired after his recent arrest) to get the ‘legal-racket’ Independence Party line or the Town’s Clerk of the Works, Ed Lettre, who runs the ‘one-man-band’ Conservative Party.

Legal problems for Ballard may arise from the assertion that with the help of Ballard’s ex-real-confidential secretary, Nancy Willen, he was running his re-election campaigns from his Highway Department Office.  Copies of political flyers were allegedly recovered from a copier located in one of the Highway Department offices which related to the recent campaign orchestrated by Sparaco to take control of the Rockland County Republican Committee with Ballard’s assistance.  Sparaco was subsequently arrested for his activities associated with this campaign and with these additional revelations one must wonder if further arrests will now follow.  Several participants expressed outrage over the Sparaco appointment and how much ($103,600) he had been paid by Ballard.  The participants said that they rarely, if ever, saw Sparaco in the office.

The consultants report made several crucial recommendations.

The report states that assertions that hiring and promotional appointments made by Ballard were politically motivated appear to be valid. Allegations that Ballard has used Town Resources to run his political campaigns is a violation of both Town policy and State law. The report recommends that a comprehensive investigation of these allegations be conducted. The report states that if Ballard has behaved in a retaliatory manner towards employees who have not assisted him politically this would constitute unlawful retaliation“. Allegations that “Wayne’s supporters” are “allowed” to take unauthorized leaves of absence, report late to work on a regular basis, or leave a worksite without authorization would violate Town policies and may also constitute a theft of time“. The report indicates that a comprehensive audit of the Highway Department’s time records must be conducted for the past two years. Also recommended for audit are all computer traffic, cell phone usage, copiers etc. issued to the Highway Department to determine if such devices have been used for purposes other that Town-related business.

Five participants made allegations of sexual harassment, age discrimination and retaliation that are so severe they require an independent investigation.

Rockland Voice has confirmed from three sources that Republican Councilman George Hoehmann has turned over a copy of the report to the District Attorney citing allegations in the report of criminal activities and also citing his concerns over knowledge by several individuals, including Highway Superintendent Ballard, that a town employee had failed a drug test after an accident while driving a town vehicle and this information was not brought to the attention of the Town Board.

It is believed that this incident occurred on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 when 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 apparently without having applied his brakes. 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 apparently were made known to Ballard but not to the Town Board.  Rockland Voice has confirmed from several sources within the Town that Sambevski tested positive for a controlled substance yet was allegedly permitted to continue driving Town vehicles on his CDL license after this information was made known to Highway Superintendent Ballard.  It has been confirmed by several sources within the Town that the facts surrounding this accident and the results of the drug test have now also been brought to the attention of the District Attorney.

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 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 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.  It now appears from the political documents recovered from copier machines that this operation was being run out of the Town’s Highway department which would explain why the report by Public Sector HR Consultants LLC has been handed over to the District Attorney for a possible criminal investigation.

What is surprising at this point in time is that Supervisor Gromack has not called the Town Board into Executive Session with Highway Superintendent Ballard to ask him to temporarily step down from his position until all aspects of this report have been fully investigated.

Further, given that the report has called for further investigations of the Highway Department such as a review of time cards for the past two years, it is clear that such investigations can not be conducted by Town of Clarkstown personnel now that the public trust in the actions of Town employees and officials has been called into question.

Rockland Voice calls on the Town Board to hire independent and disinterested external forensic auditors to conduct the further investigations called for by the Public Sector HR Consultants report and that their findings also be forwarded to the District Attorney.

About Michael N. Hull

Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

About the Author
Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

Related Posts