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Malone faults policies amid highway department scandal

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MALONE — The town’s procurement policy, which is similar to those of other towns around the state, makes it virtually impossible for officials to discover purchasing irregularities in the town highway department like those cited in charges against former Highway Superintendent Thomas J. Shanty.

Mr. Shanty is facing 11 counts of official misconduct, several of them related to improper purchases he allegedly made while in office. Among the allegations is an accusation that he ordered equipment to replace “existing fully functional equipment” and took the replaced equipment from the town for his personal use during June 2011. Another claims Mr. Shanty directed a highway department employee to obtain brush clippers valued in excess of $100, which were paid for by the town, and then were taken by Mr. Shanty for personal use during the summer of 2013.

According to Councilman John Sullivan, the highway department is largely left to its own devices, since the highway superintendent is an independently elected position. The department is given a budget and the superintendent has the authority to make purchases, as long as they remain within the budget and do not have to be put out for bid, Mr. Sullivan said.

According to the town’s procurement policy, purchases of items costing less than $500 do not require written proposals or price quotations. The items Mr. Shanty is accused of taking fall well below that threshold.

He also is accused of having highway department employees perform work at properties he owns while on town time. Again, because the highway superintendent is an elected official, members of the Town Council have minimal supervisory authority over him and were unaware anything untoward was taking place, Mr. Sullivan said.

Town officials had heard rumors that there were problems in the highway department, but nothing was ever substantiated, he said.

District Attorney Derek P. Champagne said state police were contacted by an elected official who alerted them to Mr. Shanty’s alleged misconduct. Mr. Champagne has declined to identify the source of the allegation.

The original complaint against Mr. Shanty, filed May 22, alleged he made trips to the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation to buy cigarettes in a town vehicle and that the trips allegedly took place from 2011 through 2013.

The additional 10 charges were filed June 12.

Mr. Shanty submitted a letter of resignation effective June 20.

The letter was sent to the Franklin County district attorney’s office on June 16. Mr. Champagne said the resignation was a requirement by his office as a precondition to any resolution of the charges against Mr. Shanty. Mr. Champagne had said that if Mr. Shanty did not resign from his position within the week after the additional charges were filled, the district attorney’s office would pursue legal steps to force him to resign.

Mr. Shanty will be notified that he has a month to switch any benefits the town provided, such as health insurance, so the benefits come at a cost to him and not the town, said Andrea Stewart, the town’s secretary, bookkeeper and budget officer.

Although Mr. Shanty had been unable to work from the time the charges were filed until his resignation, he continued to draw his town salary. As an independently elected official, the Town Council had no authority to suspend him or remove him from office.

In a one-sentence letter addressed to Malone Supervisor Howard Maneely, Mr. Shanty wrote “Please be advised that I hereby tender my resignation as Town Highway Superintendent effective June 20, 2014.”

An order of protection that prevents Mr. Shanty from going to the town offices or town garage and from contacting any town employees remains in effect.

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