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Worker’s check stirs New Bremen flap

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NEW BREMEN — An early July resolution by town of New Bremen officials to correct a highway department employee’s inaccurate submission for weekly pay was halted after it was discovered it was too late to rescind the paycheck.

Town Supervisor Peter J. Keys contacted accountants at Nagy and Croniser LLC, explaining that the employee, Danny L. Grunert, had submitted a time sheet requesting five days of paid vacation to which he was not entitled.

Mr. Keys was informed taxes, retirement and disability deductions had already been paid to the state. It was recommended Mr. Grunert’s inaccurate paycheck be delivered to him, and a future paycheck adjusted to make up the difference.

“It was the simplest solution,” said Mr. Keys.

Mr. Grunert’s paycheck was delivered, along with a note from Mr. Keys, explaining how the town would recover the vacation pay for which he was not entitled.

Following the delivery of the paycheck, a letter to Mr. Keys, signed solely by Mr. Grunert’s wife, Robin A. Grunert, was addressed to all five town board members, Ralph H. Hall, highway superintendent; a Lowville Journal and Republican reporter and Jeremiah Papineau, Journal and Republican managing editor.

Mrs. Grunert, a candidate for town supervisor, said an article July 10 “is filled with blatant lies, half-truths and overall errors that I would like to point out to you and the reporter who drafted the story.”

Numerous calls to Mr. and Mrs. Grunert were not returned. Calls to reach Mr. Grunert at the highway department were not successful.

Mr. Keys and Mr. Hall, however, said misinformation was provided by Mrs. Grunert in her letter.

Countering a claim by Mrs. Grunert, Mr. Keys said Mr. Grunert submitted a time card for five days of vacation pay, signed by him, as well as Mr. Hall.

Mrs. Grunert also wrote “He was well aware that he did not have ‘vacation time’ coming to him during the two-week shut down the Town observes every July.” She said her husband had two personal leave days left over from the previous year and one day of holiday pay, giving him “4 of the 5 personal days for his second year of employment with the town, of which he intended to use 2 to make up for the first five days of the shutdown July 1st through July 5th that he WAS paid for.”

Mr. Hall, however, stated the time sheet was signed and submitted by Mr. Grunert, with the letter “V” written on his card, indicating he was requesting vacation pay.

In the letter, Mrs. Grunert suggested, “If it was incorrectly written on his time card, you should have discovered that in your capacity of your job as Town Supervisor, had a discussion with Danny to clear it up before you sent the timecards to the accountants that you hired to process paychecks.”

Mr. Hall said the time sheets are faxed directly to Nagy and Croniser.

“We go by the information they give us,” said Mr. Keys.

Mrs. Grunert also said the newspaper story was incorrect when it said the time sheet was then approved by Mr. Hall, but stopped before it was issued. While the check was eventually issued, at the time the article was written, the Town Council had unanimously agreed to cancel the payment. The check was issued after the article was printed.

Mrs. Grunert blamed prior payroll mistakes, including unauthorized payment for three weeks of vacation to Mr. Grunert in the summer of 2012, on the Town Council.

“If you had been doing your job, the error would never have happened in the first place,” she wrote.

Mr. Keys said he and the board were unaware Mr. Hall had submitted the vacation pay request without board approval until Mr. Hall informed them at a February meeting. Mr. Hall told the board he gave Mr. Grunert the vacation since he is not enrolled in the town’s medical insurance plan. That is not authorized by the board or state regulations.

Mr. Keys said both the town attorney and the state comptroller advised the town to recoup the unauthorized vacation pay. He said he did not get support from council members Matthew E. Bush, Ralph L. Bush and David L. Becker, who instead passed a resolution stating all were aware they were subjecting the town to an audit. The resolution was signed by all council members as well as Mr. Grunert.

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