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AUGUST 18 - AUGUST 25, 2015

Foreman’s Job at Lewiston Water Board Still Unsettled

By Daria Jurek

August 18, 2015

Mike Townsend (above) is foreman of the Lewiston Water Dept.-- for now. Dan Zhano (right) almost was foreman and almost got a raise in a deal where both men would get foreman’s pay - a deal that fell apart after the costs were calculated.


The saga of who will become the water department foreman in the Town of Lewiston appears to be over, temporarily.

It is a story with more twists and turns than a corkscrew and it isn’t over.

During the last few months before he retired, former foreman Robert Nablo seemed to be grooming Dan Zhano to take over for him.  Zhano was already in the department and it was no secret that he and town supervisor Dennis Brochey were friends. In Lewiston the Town Supervisor also acts as the administrator of the water department, so things seemed to be set for Zhano to take over once Nablo retired.

But when the job was posted, another town employee threw his hat into the ring. Michael Townsend has been a town employee for over 25 years and he applied for the job. Townsend had more seniority than Zhano, and the town policy is that when qualifications are relatively equal, the position goes to the senior employee.

And that is where the drama began.

Both employees were interviewed by the town board, and at an open town board meeting Townsend was deemed to be as qualified as Zhano. So the board voted to give the job to Townsend, based on seniority, with only Brochey voting no.

Zhano decided to file a grievance with the Teamster’s Union saying he was actually more qualified than Townsend, and the soap opera started.

Per the union contract the grievance was submitted to Brochey as the head of the water department.

He denied Zhano’s claim to be more qualified and denied the grievance. But this denial was actually a ruse.

The union grievance process has another step for appeal. If it is denied by the department head (Brochey) it is then submitted to the Town Supervisor (again Brochey), and despite disagreeing with it initially, Brochey contradictorily agreed with Zhano.   Brochey would later admit that he only denied the grievance at the first step because he thought it would look better if a Town Supervisor was agreeing with it.

So there seemed to be an impasse.

The Town Board decided Townsend would be foreman and the Town Supervisor wanted Zhano.

Legal action was being threatened and a compromise was sought to prevent large legal expenses that would be associated with a lawsuit. 

Brochey came up with the idea to pay both men at the supervisor’s rate - an extra ten thousand dollars per year. A meeting was held with representatives from the Town Board, Teamster’s Union, Zhano, a Town Attorney and Supervisor Brochey.

At this meeting Brochey proposed his plan to “solve” the issue by paying them both a foreman’s salary.

After some discussion took place the agreement was made. Townsend and Zhano would both get a raise.

It was on the agenda to be approved at the next board meeting. But when the item came up on the agenda, Brochey said he changed his mind. He went on to say that he had been thinking about it for several days and he couldn’t bring himself to waste taxpayer funds.

He gave no reason but some wonder if a call from this newspaper changed his mind when the Reporter pointed out that by giving both Townsend and Zhano a raise (that amounted to about $10,000 per year), it would not be just one or two years at $10,000 but could be a decade before either retired and once they did retire they increased pension costs would be about $6,000 per year.

In other words what seemed like a simple increased taxpayers’ expense of $10,000 per year – over time – with pension, FICA contributions and other costs – could be as much as $200,000.

Zhano’s raise was canceled before it was voted on.

Sources say Zhano is going ahead with his union grievance, so, for now, the matter of who will fill the position is still undecided. The only thing that is sure is that the taxpayers will not have to foot the bill for a plan to give both men a raise and that will save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in wages and legacy costs.

At the moment only Townsend has gotten the raise to approximately $30 per hour and Zhano is still being paid at his old rate.







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