The Woodstock Town Board appointed Francis “Butch” Hoffman to replace now retired building inspector, code enforcement officer and zoning enforcement officer Ellen Casciaro despite one councilman’s objection that he was the only candidate interviewed.
Hoffman, who has worked as building inspector for the town for three years, moves to the top position at a rate of $35.17 per hour.
But Councilman Bennet Ratcliff wanted the item taken off the agenda so the town could find more candidates to interview, as well as to learn more about a state investigation that had come to light.
Woodstock resident Michael Veitch confirmed he is the one who filed a complaint with the New York Department of State, Division of Building Standards and Codes against the Building Department for failure to act on alleged violations at 6 Studio Lane. Veitch said the apartment building is a fire and safety hazard and nothing has been done to address it.
Veitch has spoken at Town Board meetings, imploring town supervisor Bill McKenna and the board to get the Building Department to act. McKenna has characterized it as a neighbor dispute and said he cannot intervene in Building Department actions.
McKenna also said that by May 26 state code enforcement officials had visited the property and were satisfied with the progress Hoffman was making in getting the owner to make repairs. The case will remain open so that Hoffman can get assistance with enforcement if needed.
The New York Department of State, Division of Building Standards and Codes could not be reached for comment.
Ratcliff remained upset with McKenna regarding the interview process. “I’ve been very clear that this is not a good idea to only interview one candidate, and have no other candidates interviewed for the position,” he said. “I feel that that is not a thorough way to conduct hiring. I have asked for and received with your help, a second list of people. I have not received any confirmation from you that these people declined for interviews.”
But McKenna said there was an initial list from civil service of three candidates, one of which was Hoffman. The other two declined by email. A second list had two more names and they both declined, McKenna said.
“I have not seen any declination letters,” Ratcliff said.
McKenna said he can send Ratcliff the letters if he wants them.
“Three of the individuals are happily employed at various municipalities in Ulster County. The fourth individual just retired,” McKenna said.
“Is there any other candidate that can be interviewed? There is only one candidate for this position, and that candidate is under investigation for failure to uphold his or her enforcement duties,” Ratcliff said.
McKenna said the complaint is against the department, not Hoffman.
The motion to hire Hoffman passed 3-1, with Ratcliff voting against and Councilwoman Maria-Elena Conte abstaining, citing a lack of information.
Councilwoman Laura Ricci voiced her support for Hoffman despite the complaints.
“We’ve had the billing department talk to us about how the workflow has increased. They’re juggling a ton of things and if somebody finds one thing here, one thing there that could have been done better, it may be true. But if I look at the overall big picture, I am so grateful for our building department and all the work they do. And I’m grateful for Butch who came in three years ago,” Ricci said. “We appreciate him. It’s not a matter of that. I think it’s just a matter of doing our due diligence.”