Tonawanda News

January 4, 2013

County refuse director resigns in midst of dispute

By Joyce Miles
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The top management post at the Niagara County Refuse Disposal District may stay vacant awhile after the Wednesday resignation of longtime Director Richard Pope.

According to County Manager Jeffrey Glatz, Pope, a 19-year employee who’d been on paid administrative leave the past two months, tendered his resignation over a disagreement between the two regarding profitability of a county-owned C&D landfill.

Glatz is pushing for closure of the landfill before it’s filled to permitted capacity, while Pope insisted it’s a money-maker that helps hold down the refuse tax rate. The district exists basically to oversee long-term monitoring of three closed county landfills. 

Glatz said he does not believe Pope resigned over his continued administrative leave, which was imposed Nov. 1 after Glatz received information suggesting Pope had violated the county’s employee residency and county vehicle use policies.

Glatz said the allegations were investigated but he would not divulge the results Thursday, other than to say Pope appeared to meet the employee residency requirement.

“The matter is closed,” Glatz said.

Eyes opened by the inquiry, he added, he’ll recommend some changes in the legislature-approved county vehicle use policy, which was last updated 10 years ago.

Regarding Pope’s reason(s) for quitting, Glatz said, “His letter gives no indication why. I think, with the county plan looking at (landfill) closure, he felt that it was time for him to move on. ... He never gave any indication that (the investigation) was the reason for his resignation. We parted amicably.”

Pope did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment on the matter Thursday.

Regarding management of the refuse district going forward, Glatz said he’d recommend Dawn Timm, county environmental coordinator, as a temporary or permanent director. She assisted Glatz, Public Works Commissioner Kevin O’Brien and current Refuse District Administrative Board Chairman John Syracuse with the work in Pope’s absence, and is “well qualified” to handle the range of landfill-related issues, Glatz said.

Syracuse has asked Glatz and the county attorney’s office to determine whether the director’s post legally has to be filled, or if the county could get by assigning duties to other employees including Timm. Personally, he said, he’d prefer the post go unfilled so the district saves on the $68,000 salary that’s attached.

The 2013 refuse district budget already anticipates two mid-year job cuts, for a heavy equipment operator and an account clerk.