The town of Whitehall has a new highway superintendent, and will look into the actions of the former.
The Whitehall town board voted 4-0 to appoint Louis Pratt to the position at its Nov. 6 meeting. Pratt replaces former superintendent Brian Rozell, who resigned on Oct. 31.
The board also voted to invite the New York State Comptroller’s Office to conduct an audit of the town highway department following the Washington County Sheriff’s Department report concerning fuel oil usage at the town garage.
“Louis is now in charge and it is up to (him) to choose a deputy,” said town supervisor Vernon Scribner. “We talked with both (Pratt and current deputy superintendent Bob Putorti) and felt we wanted to make the motion to appoint Louis.”
Pratt and Putorti were interviewed during a one hour, 50 minute executive session that took place following the annual town budget public hearing and vote. In talking to the two employees, the town spent more time with Pratt than they did with Putorti.
“Hopefully, we can get a lot of things straightened out,” said Pratt after the meeting. “There are a lot of things that need to be done.”
After appointing Pratt, the board also looked into the possibility of conducting an audit on the highway department.
“I feel that we should do an audit of the town garage just like we did an audit of the town clerk position last year,” said Scribner. “We get the Comptroller in here to do an audit like we have done with the change of town supervisors or whenever a change of department officers is made. It gives them a clean slate.”
“I totally agree that we do an audit and then incorporate it into a continuing investigation by the Sheriff’s department,” said town councilman David Waters.
“We do an audit and when we get it back, we can see what’s there and decide if it should be part of the investigation then,” Scribner replied.
The supervisor also answered a question concerning why the previous town clerk investigation was not pursued by the town in the same manner as the current situation.
“With the first one, I was contacted by the state and they told me not to tell anyone, and no one knew until the moment it went down,” said Scribner. “I went with what the state told me to do. That went down totally different than what this did. There was wrong there, and there could have been more wrong there. The state didn’t know if it ended with one person or if there were more involved, so they told me to keep quiet.
“In this case, we will do the audit and go on with the Sheriff’s investigation after the results come back,” added Scribner.
Town councilman David Hollister said that with new people in place, he also wanted to add new technology to tracking town employees.
“I want to look into getting time clocks and having them in place at the town garage for the men to clock in and out on and also over at the recreation center,” said Hollister. “It may be time that we might want to be a little more proactive instead of reactive because I’m getting a little tired of being slapped in the [rear] the way we have been over the last year.”