Bieniek questions county DPW appointments

A Montgomery County legislator who is a former employee of the county Department of Public Works drew a stern response from the county executive Tuesday by calling for the elimination of two supervisory positions in the department.

At a meeting of the Legislature’s Physical Services Committee, District 5 Legislator Terry Bieniek read a written statement criticizing the appointment of two deputy DPW commissioners, one for highways and bridges and the other for buildings and grounds. He listed several reasons the new positions should be eliminated:

  •  The positions are “not [being] used for the purpose intended by the Board of Legislators”;
  •  The two people filling the new positions do not meet the job requirements set forth in the job description;
  •  One of the two new deputy commissioners may possibly be in violation of the county’s ethics policy;
  •  Since the two deputy commissioners are not meeting the job requirements, the county will have to hire “outside firms” to supervise construction projects such as the new wing on the public safety building, resulting in an “additional impact on current and future [county] budgets.”

County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, who approved the hiring of the two deputy commissioners, responded when he heard Bieniek read his statement.

“I am 100 percent opposed to changing these positions,” Ossenfort told the legislators. “You’re not going to agree with every decision I make. Are you going to eliminate a position every time we disagree?”

Ossenfort said the two deputy commissioners were hired to improve the structure of the department.

“There’s been no non-union management [in the DPW] before this,” he said. I felt the need to have that flexibility.”

Ossenfort said the county charter gives the county executive authority to make personnel decisions, and legislators need to let him do that.

“If I make a poor personnel decision, I will be held accountable by the voters,” he said.

He also said the two new employees deserve a chance to make the new system work; one of the two has been on the job less than a month.

The annual salary for the deputy commissioner for highways and bridges is $61,904. That is $20,000 higher than the annual salary for the deputy commissioner for buildings and grounds. The reason for the difference in salary is that the deputy commissioner for roads and bridges needs to meet certain engineering qualifications.

Physical Services Committee members voted Tuesday to send the resolution to the Personnel Committee. That group is scheduled to meet next Tuesday.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.