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Waddington Recreation Commission will revisist its hiring practices

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WADDINGTON - The town council and its Recreation Commission are reviewing their hiring policy following claims from residents that the process was not transparent.

Several residents voiced their disapproval of the hiring process for the town beach’s caretaker at this week’s town board meeting.

Two applicants, Gerald Dow and Patty Cummings, applied for the recreation commission’s seasonal caretaker position earlier this year.

Mr. Dow was interviewed and appointed to the position in April and has already moved into the town trailer near the beach. He is set to begin work Monday.

Some residents told council members Monday that it was “unethical” for Mr. Dow to be hired for the position without a vote in public. Ms. Cummings, they said, was not interviewed by the recreation commission.

Katherine R. Lynch, a friend of Ms. Cummings, said at the meeting that the hiring was not announced.

“As a taxpayer, I deserve answers.” she said. “The democratic process was not gone through. No one government official can unilaterally make this decision. There was no transparency during this process at all,”

Ms. Cummings, who also attended the meeting, said that there also should have been a background check.

“This person is from out of town,” she said. “They are around our children every day. We don’t know who they are.”

Town Supervisor Mark Scott said Tuesday it is not uncommon for recreation employees to be hired directly by the recreation director without a vote or a background check.

“Historically, the recreation commission is independent of the town’s standard hiring practices,” he said. “The relationship between the town board and the recreation commission was formed years ago through a dual municipal agreement. But I don’t know of any written policies when it comes to the hiring of personnel.”

The position, which pays $180 a week, is funded by the town and runs through mid-October.

Recreation Commission Director Russell B. Strait, who hired Mr. Dow, said he was aware of the residents’ complaints. But he said he “strongly” denies any unethical behavior because there are no hiring policies set in place for the commission.

“I admit we should have had a better employment application process, and I should have insisted on a vote before the hiring,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we have a revised application for employment and policies as we move forward.”

He said Mr. Dow was chosen based on his background and availability, which Mr. Strait said was noted as a “plus” after he reviewed the applications.

“Mr. Dow is a retiree who will be living there 24-7,” he said. “He has the skill set and is interested in it. It seemed to me to be a very good fit.”

Ms. Cummings, he said, works full-time as a corrections officer. Mr. Strait said having a person living in the trailer full time would also help deter vandals, which is a growing problem in the community.

“We want someone who will have their eyes on that area, and notify state police or the authorities if there is anything going on,” he said.

Mr. Dow will maintain his position, Mr. Strait said. The caretaker is hired on an annual basis.

Before next year’s hiring, both Mr. Scott and Mr. Strait said the recreation commission and the town council will establish guidelines for the hiring process.

“We’ll review the documents and review what the duties are, if there are any policies in place, and develop polices when it comes to hiring,” Mr. Scott said.

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