By LIZ BUTTON
Operations at Rye Golf Club’s pool once again entered a state of flux during the pool season’s final weeks when the city handed facilities manager Gary Galante a disciplinary letter that led to his absence from the club over the final days in August and the first days of September. But when contacted, Galante said that he would be returning to work on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
City officials, however, are not commenting publicly as to the reasoning behind the reprimand.
Galante has, among other maintenance responsibilities at the club, overseen the club’s pool for the last few seasons, but the degree of his pool responsibilities waffled back and forth this year.
With the roster of those in charge changing from the beginning of pool season on Memorial Day weekend, to its end the weekend after Labor Day, some members have called the changes a reflection of the instability of the city-owned club.
The first echoes of instability began when the city got wind of a possible financial scandal in October of last year and hired a private firm to investigate.
New York City-based firm Brune & Richard filed a report Feb. 27 revealing six years of financial fraud allegedly perpetrated by former club manager Scott Yandrasevich who, according to the report, created shell staffing companies that, unchecked, succeeded in funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of members’ money into his own pockets. Final tallies of what was allegedly stolen over that span have yet to be determined. During the period when Galante was not reporting to work, City Manager Scott Pickup said there were staff members on site to help with the pool chemicals and take over Galante’s normal duties on the grounds.
According to City Attorney Kristen Wilson, a meeting was held Tuesday, Aug. 27, between Galante and Pickup in which Galante was given the letter. That meeting was followed by a hearing before city officials on Thursday, Aug. 29. initiated by Galante’s union rep.
“[Galante] must have challenged it Tuesday or Wednesday, so it was a quick turnaround,” Wilson said.
Mayor Douglas French, a Republican, said the city served Galante with a disciplinary action, but would not say whether a suspension took place.
Golf commissioners were told by city officials there was a civil service action pending that had been brought forward by Galante’s union, the Civil Service Employees Association, to challenge the city over its decision to reprimand the employee, according to golf commissioner Pat Geoghegan.
Regarding whether the city’s letter was a suspension or discliplinary letter, Wilson said, “The best word to use is ‘disciplined.’ He was not suspended from the property or from going to work or doing his daily job duties.”
Pickup added the issue is difficult to discuss in public because it involves privileged information relating to personnel, and is especially sensitive because Galante is a unionized employee. The city manager would not elaborate further as to whether Galante was suspended, and would not say what the disciplinary letter was for.
But according to golf club comissioner Angela Sposato, at an executive session after the Aug. 28 Rye Golf Club Commission meeting, the city manager told golf commissioners that Galante had been suspended for not showing up to work one day after receiving a performance document. Galante has 15 days to grieve the letter to his union, Pickup said.
Councilman Joe Sack, a Republican, said he did not believe the city’s decison to serve Galante with a disciplinary letter reflects positively on the city manager.
“Quite frankly, the timing was awfully poor given the fact that Mr. Galante had just registered his concern with the way things were being run at the pool,” he said.
Pickup said recent comments Galante made about problems with the pool operation were unrelated to any disciplinary action.
The erratic pool season at Rye Golf Club began in May, well before Galante was served with the discplinary notice, when Pickup and the commissioners contracted with pool company American Leisure for $169,413 to hire a certified pool operator and seven to eight lifeguards from American Leisure.
At the same time, Pickup tasked Galante with general oversight of American Leisure’s activities, from the CPO to the lifeguards.
According to club members and commissioners, the company, which was contracted to handle lifeguards, chlorine and filtration as well as other environmental issues, provided terrible service.
Complaints regarding poor maintenance of filtration and chlorine and an insufficient number of lifeguards led Pickup to fire American Leisure’s CPO in July.
At the commission’s July 24 meeting, Galante listed the company’s offenses, which included consistently failing to provide the number of lifeguards the city contracted for. That night, Galante announced that the city was in talks with a new company‑United Fitness, Sports, and Pools‑to take over the entire pool operation.
On July 29, the new company was hired for $77,653.
That weekend, American Leisure was fired and Galante reinstated as de facto CPO. The second company will finished out the season the weekend after Labor Day.