Village denies existence of resignation agreement

GENESEO – The village of Geneseo denied the existence of an agreement governing the terms of former streets superintendent Jason Frazier’s resignation in December.

The County News filed a freedom of information request with the village shortly after Frazier’s surprise resignation Dec. 17. The request sought, among other things, Frazier’s resignation letter and records relating to any separation, resignation or retirement agreement “that governs in any way the terms of Frazier’s resignation from his position as streets superintendent.”

In response, the village provided a redacted version of Frazier’s resignation letter and claimed no resignation agreement existed.

In a Jan. 11 letter, Village Clerk Aprile Mack certified, as required by the state’s freedom of information law, that records pertaining to a separation, resignation or retirement agreement between Frazier and the village did not exist.

In justifying its redaction of Frazier’s resignation letter, the village claimed the records were exempt from disclosure by “state or federal law,” though it didn’t specify which law or respond to follow up requests seeking clarification by press time Monday.

Following the village’s response, the County News obtained copies of an email and letter from William Walker Jr., a Rochester attorney who represented Frazier in his disciplinary proceeding, and Jeffrey Turner, who represented the village.

The email and letter show the two attorneys hammered out the details of Frazier’s resignation over the course of a couple of weeks in early to mid-December.

The email and letter show Frazier agreed to resign his position on the condition the village paid him his salary for the roughly two months prior to Dec. 17 he was on unpaid suspension, his regular salary through the end of March 2021 and $7,663 in unused vacation, holiday and personal time.

The County News also reviewed a non-redacted version of Frazier’s resignation letter. In the unaltered letter, Frazier referenced the terms and conditions the two attorneys negotiated and attached printed copies of the attorneys’ email and letter to the resignation letter itself – both of which were redacted by the village in the version it provided to the County News.

To be clear, in its response to the County News’s freedom of information request, the village claimed in the same breath that there was no resignation agreement and that it was exempt from disclosure under an unspecified state or federal statute.

Mack declined to comment last week. Mayor Margaret Duff did not respond to a request for comment by press time Monday.

As the County News previously reported, Frazier was placed on unpaid suspension in October following accusations from Duff that he misused public funds, approved falsified time sheets and entered into a contract with the state’s Department of Transportation without authorization. Frazier denied all the allegations against him.

Frazier’s suspension appears to have violated the terms of state Civil Service Law, which states the period of suspension following a misconduct allegation may not exceed 30 days. Frazier’s suspension, which began Oct. 22 and ended with his resignation Dec. 17, lasted 56 days.

The Geneseo Village Board voted unanimously to accept Frazier’s resignation during a special Dec. 17 meeting that was called solely for that purpose.

The state’s Civil Service Law states an employee accused of misconduct is entitled to a hearing. Geneseo’s Village Board went as far as to appoint a third-party officer to adjudicate such a hearing, though one was never held.

Frazier told the County News he decided to resign rather than go through the motions of a hearing because he felt the village board would still vote for his removal even if the hearing officer found him not guilty of all of Duff’s allegations.

In a letter to the editor submission that appears in this week’s print version of the County News, Frazier said serving the village as its streets superintendent has been an honor and that he’d be willing to do so again “if ever given the opportunity.”

During an interview in December on Geneseo Today, a weekly news program on WGSU, FM-89.3, SUNY Geneseo’s student radio station, Duff suggested she would not seek re-election when her mayoral term expires in March 2022.

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