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North Castle Daily News

North Castle Town Administrator Ordered to Pay Back Money to Yorktown

January 27, 2015
In a decision by Robert A. Neary, Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice, dated January 7, 2015, Neary ruled that North Castle Town Administrator Joan Goldberg’s transfer of accumulated vacation pay directly to herself without first obtaining a Town Board resolution was not proper. Yet Neary says there was legitimate reason to conclude that she was indeed authorized to disburse the funds in question.

Joan Goldberg, the former comptroller for Yorktown was appointed as Yorktown’s Town Comptroller in 1996. She was hired as North Castle’s first Town Administrator in September 2012.

Before Goldberg resigned as Yorktown’s Town Comptroller, she wrote herself a check from town funds on September 13, 2012, for 16 years of accumulated vacation pay. The payment, before deductions, amounted to $76,595.63. After taxes and deductions the amount was $42,957.56.

After the fact, the Yorktown Town Board issued a resolution that Goldberg’s payment to herself was unauthorized and directed their lawyer to take legal action to recover the disputed funds. Yorktown claimed that Goldberg “breached her fiduciary duty to the Town in causing the Disputed Payment to be made.”

Neary said, “The records demonstrate that there are no preexisting contract or legislative enactment [necessary] for Goldberg to receive four weeks of vacation or the right to accumulate unused vacation time.”

But Neary ruled that Goldberg was not entitled to recover the disputed funds. And he granted Yorktown’s claim to a limited extent and ordered Goldberg to return the disputed funds to the Town of Yorktown.

Goldberg says the most important thing is that the case is over. “It's been a hard couple of years. The case for me was never about the money. The allegations that I stole funds, that I acted inappropriately, that's what I couldn't let stand.”

Goldberg claimed that the payment was authorized by a general resolution granting employee benefits to non-union (managerial) employees that was issued by the Yorktown Town Board in 1993. Goldberg submitted the lump sum cash value of her unused vacation days, as was received by other department heads who retired.  

Goldberg did not enter into an employment contract with Yorktown when she was hired, or at any other time during her tenure with the Town. Therefore there was no contractual provision that determined the amount of unused vacation pay that Goldberg was permitted to accumulate from year-to-year. The Town did not have a rollover policy for Town employees. In February 1996 the Yorktown Town Board became aware that there was a problem with employees carrying over vacation days and cashing out substantial amounts for their unused annual leave.

“The judge was very clear,” says Goldberg, “there was no conversion, my actions were completely reasonable. I proved my case, that I had an agreement with Yorktown, that I was allotted that vacation time and allowed to carry it. The judge even cited all the proof that I had. However, due to Yorktown's deficiency in changing the policy I proved they had into a law, as is required, I had to return the funds, which had been held in escrow this entire time. I didn't lose the case, in fact, I believe I won. In the end, I proved I did nothing wrong. That's what matters to me, not the money.”  
 
Goldberg says she won't appeal. “If I did, I would have to bring into play all the other department heads that were paid under the same non-memorialized policy, and I won't do that to my former co-workers.”