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October 9, 2012

Mayor shrugs off Long absences report

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said the results of an investigation by the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper of previous activities of the Oneonta city manager are not relevant to his new position. 

The Sunday story said Michael Long was not available to perform his duties a quarter of the time from Jan. 2011 to July 2012. That time included 37 vacation days but excluded conferences. The newspaper obtained documents it used for its findings under the state open records law.

For much of the time, Long was traveling or was at his home in the Finger Lakes, he told the Poughkeepsie newspaper. He left that position, which paid $160,000 a year, on Sept. 19. He began his position in Oneonta on Oct. 1, with a starting salary of $115,000.

When reached for comment Monday night, Long said he did not want to comment until he could review the information in the article. City offices were closed for Columbus Day.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with Oneonta,” Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said. Long’s duties are described in the charter. This includes serving as the chief executive officer and chief administrative officer of Oneonta. Long will do what’s needed, including working on weekends when needed, to get the job done, said Miller.

There is a residency requirement for the position and Long has an apartment in Oneonta. During the interview process, he was seen as “extremely well qualified,” with support in the community, Miller said. “I’m sure he will do what is needed.”

Long is the first person to fill the position that was created by the city charter voters approved in November.

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal story, Long, who was at that job for four years, said he worked more hours than the municipality’s 35-hour work week and pointed out he didn’t get paid overtime. He walked out of an interview at which the Journal attempted to review the information.

In evaluating the story, the current situation in Poughkeepsie should be considered, Miller said. That includes questions about cutting the city manager position to help close a $4 million budget gap for 2013, according to the news story.

Long’s contract is consistent with other city workers, Miller said. It provides for three weeks of vacation time, with up to 50 days allowed to be accrued, and 12 sick days a year, with 75 percent of any days accrued being paid out upon leaving city service.

If the city manager is away, there is a process for making sure the work gets done, Miller said.

Only two of the eight city council members could be reached for reaction to the Poughkeepsie story. The others did not return individual phone calls.

Madolyn Palmer said Long was hired on “many, many recommendations. I’m very happy with the choice we made.” Bob Brzozowski said “Nothing I’ve seen or heard changes my opinion that he is right person for the job.”