Robert Putorti made sure he had his chance to clear the air.
Putorti, who was named in the Washington County Sheriff Department’s report on possible misuse of gasoline at the Whitehall town garage, read a letter to the members of the town board on Tuesday stating when he used the fuel and under whose directions.
“I have only used gas or diesel fuel from the town in my own truck three times,” said Putorti. “As reported in my statement to Investigator (Anthony) LeClaire, the use of 10 gallons of gas and 20 gallons of diesel fuel was used directly for the town of Whitehall.
Putorti said that he wanted to “clear the air” after the report from the sheriff’s department was made public, stating that he felt he didn’t get an opportunity to immediately state his case.
“I wish (the paper) had come to me when this first came out so I could explain everything that happened,” said Putorti. “There were a lot of things that I can prove as to when and for what direct purpose I used the fuel.”
Putorti said that the first time he used town gasoline was in 2005, under the direction of highway superintendent Brian Rozell.
“I was asked if I would use my own truck to pick up an air operated hydraulic jack from Reed’s Hydraulic in Ganesvroot,” said Putorti. “At the time, the town had some trucks under repair and weren’t available to retrieve the jack. I was authorized to use 10 gallons of gas if I accepted, which I did, and returned with the jack.”
The other two times Putorti used town fuel oil was to put 10 gallons in each incident of diesel fuel into his truck in order to transport town employees to training and meetings, the first being in August of 2007.
“I transported the entire highway crew to a snowplow safety seminar at Arrowhead Equipment in Queensbury,” said Putorti. “The use of my four-door truck was so all four employees could ride together in one vehicle. I was given permission to use 10 gallons of diesel to transport, as it would save the town money.”
In August of this year, Putorti again transported members of the highway department to a county meeting held in Cambridge.
“Ten gallons of diesel was used at this time as well,” he said. ‘The crew was with me these two times, and they all know what happened and how it happened.”
Town councilman David Waters said that even though the employees are under the direction of the highway superintendent, town policy trumped the permission given to take fuel oil.
“The town cannot afford to have a double standard,” said Waters. “We cannot have Brian (Rozell) give permission and then have the person turn around and submit a mileage slip.”
Putorti responded by saying he had only submitted a mileage slip to the town on one occasion, which was different from the ones in question.
“We didn’t even know at the garage that there were mileage slips until I got the dog control position with the town,” said Putorti. “The only time that I have ever put in for mileage was the four-day training that you sent me to for that.”
“Our highway superintendent doesn’t have the authority to do that, period,” said Waters.
Putorti said that he went to the meeting because he wanted to make sure he was able to clear up any questions that the town board or taxpayers may have had about his role in the investigation.