Brown Not Likely To Stay On As City Controller Vote Will Not Likely Take Place At Next Council Meeting

by Joseph Kissel

Although it’s rumored Maria Brown doesn’t want to keep her job as city controller due to all the political wrangling necessary to keep it, there’s no resolution likely to be presented at Monday’s city council meeting to remove her from it.

Brown and the city are still negotiating her exit, said councilman Kenny Tomkins.

“She wants protection,” he said, referring to the possibility that Brown takes the senior accountant position only to find it eliminated down the road.

The effort to replace Brown and her 16 years of service was tabled by a 4-to-1 vote at the May 31 meeting. Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti was the lone nay vote to table the “Approval of appointment of City Controller & reorganization of City Controller’s office.”

At the time, Maria Brown was on vacation and couldn’t be interviewed by the council.

But now that she’s back it looks like she doesn’t want the job and will instead become senior accountant.

“Maria Brown should be able to change her job if she so desires but on her terms,” said councilman Tomkins. “I think it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

Questions have arisen why the Dyster administration wants to replace Brown, who is a fiscal conservative that spoke up and told her boss, Mayor Paul Dyster, that the city was broke.

“When I first met her I remember saying to her ‘I don’t understand how you don’t get fired. You tell it like it is,’” said Tomkins. “She deals with black and red. You either have the money or you don’t. I think she’s the best thing in city hall,” he said.

Additionally, while several employees in Brown’s department have filed complaints against her with the federal EEOC and the New York State Division of Human Rights, citing an unhealthy workplace, there’s also questions as to whether they reported directly to her.

She was also cleared in an internal investigation, Tomkins said. “If you do something wrong, they have grounds to fire you. If they had found her guilty, the mayor could have dismissed her,” Tomkins said.

Instead, the administration had to come to council to replace her. “They couldn’t find the grounds to get rid of her,” he said.

If the council eventually votes in favor of making changes to the office, Sandy Peploe, who is a long-time assistant to Brown who recently retired, will serve as a part time, acting city controller.

Peploe was the recipient of tens of thousands of dollars in overtime approved by the Dyster administration, making her one of the highest-paid employees at city hall.

She retires at a pension estimated to be $70,000 per year (thanks to the overtime) and will earn an additional $30,000 per year as a part time controller.

If Brown moves out as city controller, one has to wonder if the part-time People will be able to serve as a watchdog (or a lap dog) against fiscal misadventures at city hall.

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