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Huntington Town narrowly approves updates to its employment plan

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said that the

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said that the "amendments address work rules and benefits. These are not new benefits, it's clarification." Credit: James Carbone

The Huntington Town Board has voted to update its employment plan that covers part-time appointed hires and full-time appointed and elected officials.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said the document, which applies to employees who are not governed under labor agreements, had not been updated in five years and formalizes previous policies while also establishing standards for part-time employees, such as a set work schedule of at least 35 hours over a two-week period to get benefits.

Part-timers had in the past faced fewer requirements to get benefits, he said. It also adds the definition of the type of employment for full- and part-time workers who would be eligible for the plan.

The changes were approved 3-2 at the July 21 town board meeting.

"This is actually tightening the belt to make sure that people have to work at least 17 and a half hours a week in order to get these types of benefits," he said. "It used to be that there was no number of set hours that people had to work in order to get those benefits."

Those benefits include holiday and bereavement pay, plus medical insurance that comes with full coverage upon separation from service to the town.

Lupinacci said the update also includes barring those employees who are retirees of the New York State or New York City retirement systems from getting vacation leave, personal leave, sick leave, compensatory time, holiday pay, health, dental and optical insurance if they are hired by the town. It also brings down the time and age from 15 years of service and age 55 to 12 years of service to get full medical coverage after leaving town service or a term in office. He said the change mirrors the length of term limits.

Town officials said the changes covers 12 part-time appointed employees who receive health insurance and four part-time appointed employees who receive vacation, sick and personal time, as well as health insurance, who had been receiving these benefits. That includes Joshua C. Price,  Lupinacci’s former chief of staff and a former town board candidate, who in February was appointed the Director/Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, a $60,000-a-year part-time position. 

The bureau will hear all code and ordinance violations related to conditions that constitute a threat or danger to the public health, safety or welfare. It won’t hear cases involving building code violations.

Town board members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol, who both voted against the measure, criticized the updates as tone deaf and fiscally questionable during a pandemic.  

“To put forth a resolution that extends substantial employment benefits to certain part-time appointed personnel during a pandemic when our taxpayers and residents are suffering from colossal economic and personal loss, shows an astonishing lack of sensitivity,” Cergol said. “I respectfully ask for a budget analysis of what these perks to part timers will cost the town and subsequently to the taxpayer.”

Cuthbertson said he had several problems with the changes, including that there was no financial analysis offered that lays out the fiscal impact.

“I think that level of benefits for part timers is out of step certainly with the private sector and probably the public sector,” Cuthbertson said.

Board Member Ed Smyth said that part timers were already eligible for benefits and that some were working well under the number of hours that what would be considered part time.

“I understand the optics, but these amendments clean up and clarify policies that were in place,” Smyth said. “The devil is in the details. This is not as generous as it seems.”

Town board member Gene Cook declined to comment.

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