Gloversville City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to approve Donald Schwartz as the city’s new temporary public works director, simultaneously sitting alongside current DPW director Chris Perry until January 14.
Originally, the board was to consider appointing Schwartz to a post that would have been referred to as the “temporary assistant” director of the DPW. But, Mayor Vince DeSantis said city labor attorney Bryan Goldberger advised council to change the resolution and remove the word “assistant” hours before Tuesday night’s meeting. The reason was to avoid concerns expressed by the Fulton County Personnel Department that the creation of a new position for Gloversville, even a temporary one, might require the creation of a new civil service job title for the city.
“It’s just a formality,” DeSantis said after the vote to remove the word “assistant” from the resolution, adding that the city will simply have two DPW directors until Perry leaves.
Ahead of the meeting, DeSantis said he believed Schwartz was the best qualified to succeed Perry among the four candidates he had considered for the nomination.
Schwartz lives in the town of Johnstown on Phelps Street, near the municipal border with Gloversville. He said his most recent position was as director of environmental support services at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, where he managed maintenance staff.
Schwartz said his intention was to continue the Gloversville Department of Public Works reforms put in place by Perry and DeSantis, including those made to the town’s snow removal efforts.
“I know Chris has a new program in place, and it seems to be more efficient and more cost effective, and these seem to be valuable changes,” he said.
General Councilor William Rowback, Jr. voted against hiring Schwartz. After the meeting, he explained his vote.
“I personally think he’s not qualified,” Rowback said. “On the one hand, he has no [Commercial Driver’s License] for heavy equipment. He doesn’t know anything about sewer systems. He does not know anything about our hydraulic infrastructures. I come [believe], he is not qualified.
Rowback said he was not part of any interview process for the job and was not aware of any other candidates for the job. He said he received a copy of Schwartz’s curriculum vitae, which he says is the basis for his criticism of Schwartz’s qualifications.
Fourth Ward councilor Ellen Anadio, who voted in favor of Schwartz’s appointment, said she believed DeSantis conducted the interviews for the principal post without council input.
“The mayor had to do it himself,” she said.
Perry’s announcement in November that he would not be returning for another annual meeting in the post was the second time in 2021 that he had announced he would be leaving the post. In January, after being reappointed for another annual term at the city’s organizational meeting, he announced his resignation with a letter alleging that Rowback and some of his loudest supporters had created a hostile working environment for him, often threatening not to be reappointed. once “Rowback became mayor” and made statements attacking DeSantis.
Rowback was the Republican candidate for mayor in November, but was defeated by DeSantis.
Perry’s alleged harassment also included phone calls from fierce Rowback supporters criticizing various aspects of the job he did as manager. This came even though a bipartisan consensus in council has often publicly praised Perry for dramatically improving the performance of the city department in areas such as snow removal, street repaving, catch basin repairs, repairing manholes, removing dangerous trees and re-planting trees.
Schwartz said he was well aware of the phone calls and other pushbacks inflicted on Perry by some Rowback supporters, and he expects him to face similar comments from those same people. He said he was ready to deal with any attempt at threat or harassment as a director.
“I’ve been involved in leadership and business management for a very long time – I have big shoulders and a strong back,” Schwartz said. “I’m a nice guy, but I want to get things done for the benefit of the community. “
Prior to Schwartz’s appointment on Tuesday night, DeSantis said he was considering possible ways to reform the director’s post because, unlike most local towns, it is an annual get-together as the work is has become a kind of political football in recent years.
In recent years, Gloversville directors have tended to step down amid a cloud of controversy.
Perry’s issues with Rowback led to a council investigation and a scathing report criticizing Rowback’s statements to some town employees. Perry’s immediate predecessor, Dale Trumbull, was embroiled in the scandal that led to the arrest and final resignation of the man who appointed him the city’s former mayor, Dayton King. Trumbull provided an affidavit to police supporting the allegation that King stole stamps from town hall.
Trumbull’s predecessor, Kevin Jones, was not renamed by King amid controversy over the theft of a large bronze church bell. The bell of the former First Baptist Church on South Main Street had been stored in a storage facility at the city’s Department of Public Works.
However, on Tuesday, ahead of the board meeting, DeSantis said he would not consider supporting any type of change in the length of the DPW director’s tenure, at least not in the short term. He said Schwartz will have to prove he is an effective manager before he ever considers supporting any kind of permanent change in tenure.
Such a move would likely force the public to approve an amendment to the city’s charter.