The town of Queensbury is in trouble with the Department of Labor and may have to pay thousands of dollars in fines.
What is even more murky is how this happened.
In June 2006, New York State passed legislation requiring public employers — including towns like Queensbury — to evaluate the risk of workplace violence and develop a program to prevent and minimize it.
Dan Stec, now a state assemblyman, was the supervisor at the time, and it appears the town never did comply with the law.
This came to light last summer after a series of incidents in Queensbury that are disturbing:
In two cases, highway department workers came to blows.
In another case, an outside vendor threatened a town employee after the town employee canceled an order.
And in a final incident, an employee said he “might as well” bring a gun to work and shoot everyone.
We don’t know how each of these incidents was handled, because the town had not complied with one of the five provisions of the law that requires documenting workplace violence incidents and maintaining those records.
It was during a routine inspection last summer that a Department of Labor representative noticed the town had not posted signs about its workplace violence program.
In its review, the Department of Labor found the following problems with the town of Queensbury:
- It had not developed and posted a written policy statement. This was corrected during the inspection.
- The town had not evaluated the workplace to determine the risk of violence.
- The town had not developed, with the participation of an authorized employee representative from the union, a written violence prevention program.
- The town had failed to provide employee training on the risks of workplace violence.
- The town had failed to establish and maintain record-keeping of workplace violence incidents. This was also corrected during the inspection.
Supervisor John Strough says he never received the list of infractions that a Post-Star reporter received from the Department of Labor.
The supervisor also disagreed about the training program, saying that the town had implemented a program, but disagreeing the union representative had to be part of the process.
The Department of Labor does have a reputation of being nit-picky, so it concerns us that the town did not take the violations more seriously with immediate corrective action. Our experience is you don’t want to mess around with the Department of Labor.
Strough said he delegated the project to a safety officer. The safety officer has not returned phone calls from a Post-Star reporter. Neither has any of the members of the Town Board.
What concerns us most is the way Strough made the situation public.
Near the end of the Town Board meeting on Feb. 12, he slipped in a short reference to his discussion with the Department of Labor representative on Jan 24 and the representative’s contention the town “might be facing fines.”
Strough said he was told the town would have the opportunity to contest any charges at a hearing and the town would probably do that.
One of the complaints about Strough has been his secretiveness when it comes to bad news. This was true after an unfavorable audit by the state and appears to be true now.
Strough told our editorial board before the November election he needed to be more forthcoming with the Town Board on such issues.
We are concerned that a pattern is developing.
It is possible that this is just nit-picking by the Department of Labor and the fines might not amount to much. We just don’t know.
The supervisor needs to take some time at the next Town Board meeting to explain how this happened and why the taxpayers might be on the hook for thousands of dollars in fines.
Considering the four incidents, not complying with the Department of Labor’s policies appears significant.
Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Carol Merchant, Eric Mondschein and Bob Tatko.