Ltr to Ed: Setting the record straight on employee use of a town vehicle

November 8, 2013
by Anthony Vaccaro, Commissioner, New Castle Department of Public Works

In a letter last week, Robin Murphy speculated that I wrongly allowed a DPW employee to take a town vehicle for personal use while intoxicated, and that he subsequently caused damage to the vehicle. As Commissioner of this Department I feel it is my responsibility to set the record straight.

On October 26, 2012 Governor Cuomo declared a State of Emergency to prepare for Hurricane Sandy.  On October 28, 2012 at 7:15 p.m. New Castle Supervisor Carpenter declared a State of Emergency for the Town of New Castle from 6:00 a.m. on October 29, 2012 to 6:00 a.m. on November 1, 2012.  All major roadways and most secondary roads in New Castle were closed due to fallen trees and wires.  At the same time all major suburban rail lines were shut down and all reported significant damage to their infrastructure. Downed trees, flooding, and debris were widespread.  Our transportation network remained crippled by Hurricane Sandy.

During this State of Emergency, the New Castle Department of Public Work crews along with Con Edison crews were working around the clock clearing power lines, trees and debris from local roadways. On October 29, 2012 Mr. Martinez, a DPW laborer, reported to work. When Mr. Martinez was dismissed from work on October 30th, he went to his vehicle parked at the DPW garage and found that the window to his vehicle had been shattered. 

Mr. Martinez reported the incident to me and I investigated the vehicle and surrounding environment and noted that the car was unsafe for him to operate. Because of the storm, public transportation was not in service and I could not remove any of my staff from roadway clearing to drive Mr. Martinez home.  As Mr. Martinez’s supervisor, I made an administrative decision to loan a staff car to my employee so he could go home and rest. Mr. Martinez was alert and focused when he left the DPW garage. 

Since the Governor had declared the State of Emergency, roads normally travelled to reach northerly destinations were not available.  So Mr. Martinez traveled south to reach the Sprain Brook Parkway.  As he was travelling on the Sprain Brook Parkway he accidentally side-swiped another vehicle. State police responded to the scene of the accident.  Nowhere in the police report is there any indication that Mr. Martinez was under the influence of any substances which affected his judgment.  Mr. Martinez called and reported the incident to me and the accident was reported to the Town’s insurance carrier.

Anthony Vaccaro
Commissioner of Public Works

We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Dear Mr. Vaccaro: Thank you for your explanation of the incident.  My view of Ms Murphy’s piece was that, as a resident of New CAstle, she was frustrated by the quality of answers she received from the town administrator and from board members to whom she mentioned her misgivings. 

Perhaps there is some other way to convey to town government that particular circumstances might be perceived by outsiders as compromising.  With all the difficulties going on in our town, this type of thing seems to work to make people even more suspicious of how our elected officials run things.

By My view is different on 11/08/2013 at 4:40 pm

Mr. Vacarro,

Thank you for your letter.  If Robin Murphy had gotten an answer from the town administrator, there would have been no need for you to have written it.  That is the problem.

By thank you Mr. Vacarro on 11/08/2013 at 7:28 pm

O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive…..

By Truth be told on 11/08/2013 at 8:05 pm

I read your letter and then went back to Mrs. Murphy’s and upon re-reading of Mrs. Murphy’s letter, I will say that yours does not make sense.  If everything had been as you described, then there would have been absolutely no reason for any employee to have been punished.  However, an email from our Town Administrator to Mrs. Murphy confirms that there had been punishment doled out.  Would you like to try again?

“This matter was handled quite some time ago.  Whoever you found out about it from probably did not hear that it was handled.  There are two types of employees at DPW.  Those that are “punished” and run around and complain to everyone about it and those that are “punished” take their medicine and keep it to themselves.  I guess this was the latter case.  I guess it bothered someone at DPW who had not heard that this this might not have been handled.  To that I say they should take care of their own business.  However, you may report to them that it was handled.  This is a personnel matter and personnel matters are always handled confidentially unless the employee(s) choose(s) to discuss with other personnel.  I hope this clears this up.”

By To Mr. Vacarro on 11/09/2013 at 12:07 am

@To Mr Vacarro

The employee accidently side swiped a vehicle. That would have been a reason for some sort of punishment. Would you like to try again?

By Josh on 11/09/2013 at 9:52 am

I find it very sad indeed that because of the town administrator’s poor judgement and lack of honesty, Mr. Vaccaro finds himself in this unfortunate position.

By too bad on 11/09/2013 at 2:36 pm

Isn’t it policy that drug testing is required when there is any damage by an employee to a town vehicle.  Did this employee take a drug test after this accident?  For that matter, did Penny’s son get drug tested after his hit/run?

By Your answers bring more questions on 11/09/2013 at 5:42 pm

What all the commenters are missing is that DPW was working ‘round-the-clock after Sandy.  No words of thanks, even if there are legitimate questions.  The witch hunt continues.   
My dealings with Mr. Vaccaro and many on DPW have shown a group of hard workers completely “on their game” and working hard for our town.

By Sad fact on 11/10/2013 at 9:02 am

Truth and honesty would have cleared this up months ago. Unfortunately, the town administrator provided neither. And there are still unanswered questions and contradictions. It show just how badly a new administration is needed.

By bob on 11/10/2013 at 11:53 am

That is totally not the point here. Most people in this town don’t have personal “dealings with Mr Vaccaro and many of his men”. You are clearly an insider with a personal agenda to stand up for the commissioner, which goes back to Robin Murphy’s point: who is watching out for the residents?

By To Sad Fact on 11/12/2013 at 7:49 am

I think the Commissioner made the absolute right call.  I remember the DPW being out all the time – they made an enormous difference in Town during that horrible situation (unlike Town Hall which I never heard from and felt like they were completely asleep – no news, no dry ice, no police, nothing really).  For him to authorize the worker to drive a department car after the worker’s window was borken, was the right call and even if the worker got into a fender bender, I still applaud his actions.  It appears there is no report of alcohol use with this incident from the police report and the worker reported the accident.  I don’t know why everyone is so down on his actions.

By happy with explanation on 11/12/2013 at 12:43 pm

I cant even believe i took the time to read all this.  I agree where is one word of thanks for the round the clock work our town employees did to get you all heat and electricity to your fancy houses.  Its times like this i regret being a 20 year resident of this town.  The entitlement is shameful.

By MF on 11/12/2013 at 1:29 pm

No one who works for the town, including DPW, did one thing to get me heat and electricity after Sandy. No one. Entitled? Where do you live?

By Where were they? on 11/12/2013 at 6:51 pm

By Where were they?  it was not DPW that was responsible for lack of heat and electricity.  They were responsible for getting rid of trees and making streets and roads safer.  I don’t think we can fault them because they did have a presence.  No one else did in town.  We can fault Con Ed, the town and police for everything but not DPW.  I think they were the only dept working. The town was atrocious in getting anything but DPW working.  No word, no dry ice, no finding out if anyone needed anything, the Red Cross did what they do, but the town fell short in every way besides DPW.  In a town this small, they should have been door to door to see what the town could have done to help its citizens.

By Will say this on 11/12/2013 at 7:23 pm

@Will say this,

I agree with “Where were they?” DPW may have had a presence clearing roads where you live, but they were no where to be seen where I live. (No live wires down to interfere either.)
You are right, though, about the cluelessness of the town administration, elected and appointed.

By Agree with Where were they? on 11/13/2013 at 6:45 am

The employee accidentally side swiped a vehicle?  The employee fell asleep at the wheel, and that was the first incident, the second incident is another story, ask Vaccaro to tell the truth, not his truth, the real truth!

By LB on 11/14/2013 at 8:44 pm

Come on Now,We elected a new team to clean house and that’s exactly what should be done! Let’s start a new year with a totally new administration all across the board. I don’t understand how this has gotten so out of hand with the high salaries for so many similar titles. For instance,the town has a commissioner of public works,a deputy commissioner,and an assistant to the commissioner. It appears the commissioner does a very good job at delegating his responsibilities to both the deputy commissioner and the assistant to the commissioner,which by the way, the assistant to the commissioner was a position that was added only since Mr Vaccaro came on board. Seems to most residents that I’ve heard speaking on this is that the former commissioner Mr. Moerschell seemed to have a good handle on tackling his job duties when he was in title of much so that Mr. MOERSCHELL is still very much needed to keep the commissioner “looking good”. If Mr. Vaccaro is unable to fulfill his duties as it appears, I would like my tax dollars to not be squandered on adding positions out of favor and/or to help someone keep his job. Recently, I was made aware by another resident that there was a new position created for the former secretary of the town supervisor since her husband who was injured while working for the recycling department was unable to return to work. The worker was given a position created for her in the title of secretary of architectural review board because she needed a full time position. As residents,it is our responsibility to keep aware and ask what is going on?

By Mr J.W Concerned Chappaqua Resident on 11/18/2013 at 4:56 pm

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We encourage civil, civic discourse. In other words, be pithy and polite. All comments will be reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.