Village of Cobleskill Clerk Samantha Moyster was back in the hot seat Tuesday over complaints that her office is never open.
For her part, Ms. Moyster said she’s understaffed and getting up to speed on a new software system for billing has been grueling.
And when it looks like the office is closed because the lights are out?
Try the door, said Mayor Linda Holmes.
“The lights are off to save energy,” she said.
Trustee Tom Johnstone brought up the issue with the hours.
“Are we going to talk about the office being closed?” he asked. “It should be open 9-4. We all work for the taxpayers…”
Complaints from Mr. Johnstone and others focused on the fact that the office isn’t reliably open and even the hours posted on the door don’t mean anyone will be there.
Mayor Holmes defended the inconsistencies.
“We’re down to one person almost all of the time,” she said. “When that person needs time off…that’s when the office is closed.”
Mr. Johnstone didn’t buy that, asking what’s changed in the office since Ms. Moyster was hired to replace longtime Clerk Sheila Hay-Gillespie two and a half years ago.
When the questions started to veer toward talking about other, current personnel, Mayor Holmes demanded an executive session.
But then she relented--as long as speakers addressed only the position and hours, but not individuals.
“Do we understand?” she asked.
“Do we understand?”
But the talk on past employees continued, unchallenged.
Ms. Moyster said when she took on the job, “Sheila was six months behind. I’m taking on way more than Sheila did…I try to be efficient in my job.”
Mr. Johnstone asked for specifics.
“We all signed up for the job here,” he said again. “Now you can’t do it. We all work for the taxpayers.”
“To the blind eye, it’s simple,” replied Ms. Moyster, but since she’s been clerk, the village has created two new water districts—which must be billed.
On top of that, she said, the new software system sent out bills riddled with errors, which her office has had to go in and correct manually—when they’re not addressing complaints and questions about the bills left on their answering machine because they’re too busy to answer the phone.
Town of Cobleskill Court Clerk Karen Fletcher said her office and that of Town Clerk Tina Ward often step in to help out when the village office isn’t open as advertised—largely because taxpayers come knocking on their doors.
“We all try to be cooperative—we know people have to do things like go pick up kids—but my issue is that the office is closed haphazardly with no explanation and next to no lead time,” Ms. Fletcher said.
“People stop in our office wanting to pay a parking ticket and I can’t help them…We’re not looking to criticize anyone, but when Jen [Redmond, an employee who also works in the Police Department downstairs] is there, the office is open.”
But looking ahead, Mayor Holmes said the office will be down to one person again this week.
And though Mayor Holmes said she’ll fill in as she can, “If she [Ms. Moyster] has to go to the bank…the office will be closed.”
Ms. Moyster suggested reduced “public hours,” and Trustee Howard Burt said he doesn’t have a problem with reduced hours if they’re short-handed, but he wants them to be consistent.
After tossing around options, the trustees agreed to change the “public hours” to Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 10am-3pm, and noon-6pm on Tuesdays beginning May 1.
Only Mr. Johnstone voted against the change in hours.
In November, Mr. Johnstone and Mr. Burt also voted against a 10 percent raise to about $45,000 annually for Ms. Moyster, pointing out that the agreement was that no employees would receive raises. Ms. Moyster’s raise passed.