Ossining Highway Chief Pursues Lawsuit Against Town

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Town of Ossining Highway Superintendent Michael G. O'Connor says the Town Board illegally lobbied voters in a failed attempt to make his position appointed rather than elected. Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy Ossining Democrats

OSSINING, N.Y. – Voters rejected changing the Town of Ossining’s highway superintendent position from elected to appointed, but current Highway Superintendent Michael G. O’Connor is still pursuing a lawsuit against the Town Board.

O’Connor filed the lawsuit this month, asserting that the board violated the law and lobbied in favor of the proposition. Town of Ossining residents voted 72 percent to 28 percent to reject the proposal on Nov. 6, a few days after O’Connor filed his suit in state Supreme Court. O’Connor claims in the lawsuit that the Town Board distributed postcards and press releases urging residents to vote for the proposition and used town finances to do it.

“They blatantly put out pieces using taxpayer dollars to tell people to vote for it, and that’s against the law,” O’Connor said Friday. “My attorneys have done the research and indicated the same thing to me that this was wrong.”

O’Connor said he is not looking to gain anything from the lawsuit other than recognition that the board violated the law.

“The only thing I can ever hope for in terms of money is to break even,” he said. “I’m not looking for the money. What I hope to get out of it is to make the courts aware of what [the Town Board has] done and that they violated the law and did something wrong.”

O’Connor said he did not feel vindicated when the proposition failed but felt that the vote was a strong statement from town residents.

“I don’t feel like it was support for me,” he said. “The issue was the public maintaining the right of franchise to vote for who they want as their highway superintendent.”

The Town Board recently issued a response to the lawsuit, saying it is “frivolous and inappropriate.”

“Mr. O'Connor's actions only serve to underscore and highlight the need to change the position from an elected to appointed position,” the board said in a statement. “The Town Board remains committed to this change for reasons based on long-term operational needs, best management practices and efficient use of taxpayer funds. We now regret that there was insufficient time to adequately advise the public of the numerous positive benefits which would have been realized through this change.”

The board added that “the only individual with a personal stake in this matter is Mr. O'Connor,” according to the statement.

“Throughout the process, the Board members have made every effort to avoid personally attacking Mr. O'Connor,” the board wrote. “We have likewise refused to allow sentimentality to prevent us from taking steps we feel are in the best interests of our constituents. ... Mr. O'Connor, however, is a politician, not an individual with the proper training and education needed to run a Highway Department in the modern era. The position of ‘Elected Superintendent of Highways’ is an anachronistic holdover from a simpler time, simply by nature of the responsibility entailed.”

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Comments (6)

Brian A:

Or perhaps the Superintendent of Highways will find out how we feel about this frivolous post-election lawsuit in the next election. Absolutely within his rights, but necessary? Thanks so much for spending our resources and court time on this, now that he got the results he wanted - basically no competition for his job. The fact that the Town Board put forth an option is what we should all be appreciative of. It's that - an option, that the voters decided. My choice next election will be for someone who doesn't want to waste our money on politicking after the election is won.

stephano:

The Town Board will find out just how we feel about them in the next election. Now they are saying that Mr. O'connor has no training, no education and no brains when it comes to taking care of the roadways in Ossining Town. Tell me please what projects we are planning...an interstate highway? A new parkway? I hope not...so we just need to make sure that our streets are maintained, leaves picked up, potholes repaired and snow plowed...this is not rocket science folks it's common practice and has been in superlative hands for the last 40 years by ELECTED highway superintendents. Anything else you need to know?

bill10526:

The board's reasons for an appointed Highway Superintendent as reported herein apply just as well to judges. I trust the leaders of our political parties to present competent people for choice by the people.

The election is over, and Mr. O'Connor and the board should get on with the people's business. I disliked the tone of the board's response to Mr. O'Connor, and I hope that they would give a guy a break. Mr. Oconnor should drop his childish suit and accept his win like an adult.

Adelard:

So how is highway superintendent any different then say town supervisor, which is currently held by a politician as well? Should we give up our right to vote there as well and let some politicians just pick one?

If there is a more qualified person than the man in the position, let them run against him in the next election. Heck, the board can even endorse one candidate over the other, But don't use our tax money to shove an agend at the town. It is this type of board, insinuating that the people can't make an educated decision in an election, that is keeping politics as usual in our town, state and federal governments.

Brian A:

So, should every town position be an elected one? Where do we draw the line?

grandmachris:

They on't get it! If there is a choice between the voters or a politician to be in charge, guess who wins?

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