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Complaints of misconduct are leading to unusual work restrictions for Ogden’s highway inspector

Ogden’s elected highway inspector is operating under an unusual employment agreement with the city that, amid complaints of “workplace misconduct,” prohibits him from meeting with most city highway department employees without another person present.

The agreement with Highway Superintendent Dan Wolf appears to greatly limit what he can do on the job.

For example, the city’s deputy highway inspector or a foreman must be present when Wolf meets with highway department employees. They are also responsible for communicating with staff on many tasks, such as “repair and maintenance of highways, roads, sidewalks and bridges in the city and the removal of obstacles caused by snow.”

“The City Director of Personnel, the City Supervisor, the Deputy Superintendent of Highways, the Works Foreman and the City Department Heads are the only individuals you may meet in person and interact with without the presence of another individual,” the agreement states.

Do not use discriminatory language

Ogden City Hall.

Ogden City Hall.

The three-page agreement warns Wolf not to use discriminatory language that targets individuals because of race, gender, sexual orientation or other protected classes in New York.

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It also bans him from posting to social media in his official capacity, as well as to social media accounts in the city. The agreement allows the city’s deputy highway superintendent to post.

In a text message, Wolf declined to comment when asked about the agreement.

He wrote: “I cannot comment at this time.”

In the agreement obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle, Wolf said he did not admit guilt regarding the allegations.

Ogden Town Supervisor Mike Zale also declined to comment, saying the town does not comment on personnel matters.

The allegations against Wolf are not clearly outlined in the document, but “are sufficient cause to demand a response,” the agreement said. “The City will not tolerate threatening, intimidating, or demeaning behavior in the workplace, especially when such behavior is accompanied by a real (or) perceived power imbalance,” the agreement continues.

The agreement started in January

Ogden, NY, is the site of an unusual employment arrangement for the elected highway inspector.Ogden, NY, is the site of an unusual employment arrangement for the elected highway inspector.

Ogden, NY, is the site of an unusual employment arrangement for the elected highway inspector.

The agreement took effect in January. Wolf has been politically active in Ogden and was a past chairman of the city’s Republican committee.

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The Democrat and Chronicle has filed public access requests for complaints involving Wolf. The city recently told the Democrat and Chronicle that an extension was needed to compile the documents.

However, the Democrat and Chronicle separately obtained the agreement with Wolf. In the agreement, the city acknowledges it has been limited in what it can do since Wolf was elected.

In New York there are 933 cities, and the vast majority have elected highway inspectors. An exact number is not readily available, and some cities occasionally move away from the direction of choosing an elected official for the position.

Can you remove an elected city official from New York?

State law provides a route for residents to remove an elected highway inspector through legal proceedings. A judge would have to determine whether the misconduct or crime was substantial enough to warrant removal.

“The standard is very high” for removal, said Chris Koetzle, supervisor of Glenville in Schenectady County and executive director of the Association of Towns of the State of New York. “There’s a good reason for that, so that people don’t try to weaponize the process because they don’t like someone or because it’s an election year.”

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A criminal conviction can also lead to expulsion.

Koetzle, who has been a supervisor for 14 years, said he had never heard of the removal process used in New York during his tenure.

The agreement also calls for Wolf to provide consistent reporting on project costs in the highway department.

“Please understand that the city takes this matter very seriously,” the agreement reads. “It is expected that you will promptly comply with these restrictions.”

– Gary Craig is a veteran reporter at the Democrat and Chronicle, covering courts, crime and more. YYou can reach Craig at gcraig@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Ogden NY highway inspector faces restrictions over complaints

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