Was Lockport Mayor justified in not reappointing Deputy Clerk Browning?

Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey’s decision not to reappoint Shirley Browning to another 4-year term as Lockport’s Deputy City Clerk caused controversy last week.

Mayor McCaffrey declined to reappoint Browning because, she said, it is a “public officer” position which requires Browning to live in Lockport. Browning moved down the canal to Gasport.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey

Mayor McCaffrey offered Browning a different job at City Hall, that of Senior Account Clerk, which, the mayor said, offered the same pay and same benefits, but which did not require her to live in Lockport.

SeeThroughNY.net lists Browning’s income for 2017 as $52,289.

Because Browning declined to accept the Mayor’s offer of another position, Browning will no longer work for the city. She had been a city employee for 15 years.

Browning’s union, of which she is the local president, the CSEA, staged a protest outside City Hall and is threatening another. The union’s legal department is exploring options and, according to a source, the union either filed a grievance with the city claiming selective enforcement of the residency requirement, or plans to file one.

Browning and her union believe she was treated unfairly because the Lockport Common Council has waived residency requirements for other city officials and/or workers in the past.

A special exemption could have been made for Browning’s position at the state level, she claims.

According to the Lockport Journal, Browning “was not happy about accepting a demotion and, more importantly, she wanted the offer to include a guarantee of job security, saying she was worried her position would be cut in future budgeting.”

It is not known how many positions at City Hall come with such guarantees.

The Reporter does not know the back story behind this. McCaffrey is a Republican.

Browning, as a union leader, may likely be a Democrat. She was extended the opportunity to take another position at Lockport City Hall – – at the same pay — and she declined it.

Browning called it a demotion. McCaffrey called it a lateral move.

Browning says she gave the mayor advance knowledge of her move outside the city and should have been granted a waiver.

In declining the position, it appears Browning is not dependent on the income, which makes the issue seem to be one of principle and not of hardship.

“I want to give a big thank you to all of the people who stood out in the cold today at City Hall to support me and our efforts to end the disregarding of the CBAs (Collective Bargaining Agreements)! It is very much appreciated!” tweeted fired Clerk Shirley Browning.

The mayor is acting within her purview not to reappoint Browning and to also not to grant a waiver for residency.

The union, in order to prevail, will need to show that Browning is the victim of selective and/or capricious and arbitrary enforcement of residency requirements and was improperly denied a waiver that is routinely offered to others.

The Reporter will be glad to publish a list of public officials in the city of Lockport who live outside the city and did in fact get waivers from this administration. We will also be glad to publish their party affiliation.

Absent evidence of such waivers, from the evidence on hand, it is hard to find fault with McCaffrey’s decision. At least initially, the offer of a similar paying job seems to have been a reasonable compromise.

What happens next is anybody’s guess.

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