At a special meeting held Wednesday night, the Salina Town Board determined in executive session that comptroller Daniel Nolan had never executed his oath of office for 2006 and was thus not an employee of the town.
Every town employee is required to sign the oath of office within 30 days of their appointment, Supervisor Charles Iavarone said. Mr. Nolan never executed his. Therefore, he is not an employee of the town of Salina and the comptroller’s office is vacant.
Some speculated that the decision was a move made based on a technicality so that Nolan, who is facing drug charges, could be let go from employment by the town without being fired.
The town called a special meeting for Wednesday Dec. 27 to discuss Nolan’s fate. The comptroller was placed on paid leave on Dec. 20 after being arrested at Hancock International Airport for possession of cocaine. Since his arrest, many in the town have been calling for his removal from office.
“I can’t condemn him for having a drug problem, but it’s not cancer,” Salina resident Mike Cavallo said. “The taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for this. I don’t want him to be on paid vacation. The town can’t ask the taxpayers to do it.”
Cavallo got his wish when the town board returned from a 50-minute executive session in which they heard from town auditors and reviewed other records pertaining to Nolan’s employment. Iavarone announced that, since Nolan had never signed the oath, he was not actually an employee of the town.
“He never took the oath of office,” Iavarone said. “It’s the officer’s responsibility to take the oath. We review it at the end of every year to see who needs to take the oath for the following year. Since he never did so for 2006, he is no longer on the payroll as of tomorrow.”
Iavarone refused to comment on what action the board might have taken with regard to Nolan’s employment had this discovery not been made. He also refused to answer questions about how Nolan’s failure to sign the oath escaped the town’s attention and whether the same might be true of other employees.
“Technically,” Nolan hasn’t been an employee of the town all year, Second Ward Councilor David Stott said. “I said to Chuck, we need to take a look at whether he ever signed this. We found out today that he had not.”
Auditor David Moynihan gave the board a full briefing of the results of the audit of 2005’s financial statements.
“We’re very close to the budget,” Moynihan said, pointing out positive balances in the town’s general fund and special funds. “It’s a very good report.”
However, the audit announced at Wednesday’s meeting only evaluated the financial statements from 2005, comparing them with the comptroller’s reporting. The fraud investigation is ongoing. Town auditors will examine in-depth all of the town’s financial records to determine if there are any discrepancies. Iavarone did not know how long that investigation would take.
The decision seems to have saved the town from having to fire Nolan and its residents from having to take matters into their own hands.
“We cannot remove an officer of the town,” Iavarone said. “It’s state law. Only a private citizen can file an action or the district attorney can file to remove him from office. The DA will usually only do that upon conviction of a crime.”
Robert Antonacci, the town’s director of finances, has taken on the responsibilities of the comptroller’s office for the time being. Iavarone said he expected that the board will appoint a new comptroller sometime after the first of the year. He said Nolan could be reappointed to the post, but he does not think the former comptroller has the support of the town board.
“I just hope we can move forward,” the supervisor said. “These last two weeks, I would really like to just put in our past.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.