Interim inspection officer hired

Fredonia has a new part-time chief inspection officer, but only for a temporary period of time.

During its special meeting on Monday, the Fredonia Village Board approved the hiring of Charles LaBarbera of Angola for the position of interim part-time chief inspection officer (also known as a code enforcement officer) at a rate of $30 per hour, effective Oct. 10.

LaBarbera, who was present during the meeting, said he is working four hours per week in the village and eight hours per week in the town of Evans and the village of Angola, where he is also employed as the senior code enforcement officer. Evans and Angola share the position.

Trustee Marc Ruckman voted against the measure, citing confusion over the hiring process leading up to LaBarbera’s employment.

“I don’t like the way this all started,” he said.

During the public portion of the meeting, it was questioned why the board needed to fill the vacant position all of the sudden.

“I’m wondering why there’s a resolution when the gentleman’s already working,” resident Michaelene Comerford said. “You folks haven’t met in weeks and there’s a lot of unanswered questions here. All of the sudden, this resolution comes out of the sky about hiring somebody. Where was any kind of meeting or a public forum where you guys voted on this? I’ve said before, this position doesn’t need to be filled. Things have been going just fine without it. There was never any great amount of discussion in any of your meetings and all of the sudden, we’ve got somebody hired. There was no emergency here, folks.”

Ruckman asked what the actual process of hiring LaBarbera entailed.

“(Village Administrator Richard St. George) called me and probably the two trustees who were involved with the interview,” Trustee Joseph Cerrie, who presided over the meeting, replied.

“But, we all knew we were interviewing,” Trustee Susan Mackay said. “And we all knew we had discussed that we would fill the position. (Comerford has) been to the workshops and that’s where it happened.”

In its last meeting before Monday’s special meeting (Sept. 23), the board had gone into executive session to discuss personnel at the building inspector’s office.

Mackay insisted the hiring was not done over the phone when Ruckman asked if it was.

Two trustees, Mayor Stephen Keefe and St. George made up the Personnel Committee for filling the inspection officer position, according to Cerrie.

The OBSERVER contacted St. George after the meeting to find out additional details of LaBarbera’s hiring.

“The board is test-driving filling the position until they decide if it should be a full-time position or not,” he said. “They may leave it and he may be asked to leave the position at any time, which he knows.”

St. George pointed out that Comerford is a landlord.

The board entered into executive session both before and after the special meeting to discuss personnel at the Fredonia Department of Public Works, water filtration plant, building code office and fire department, as well as to discuss contractual negotiations.

Comments on this article may be sent to gfox@observertoday.com