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Fregoe: ‘You can’t retire from a job you don’t have’

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MASSENA — The village’s former code enforcement officer and its mayor are continuing to debate the facts that led to the departure of Gregory C. Fregoe from his post with the town and village.

Mr. Fregoe, in a letter to the editor that appeared in the May 21 issue of the Daily Courier-Observer, wrote that he never retired from his job.

“I did not quit the code job. I did not resign, nor did I retire as the village mayor would like you to believe,” Mr. Fregoe wrote. “I was not reappointed during the Dec. 18, 2012, annual meeting. If you are not reappointed, you lose your job.”

Following the filing of a Freedom of Information request, the Courier-Observer was provided with a copy of a letter Mr. Fregoe sent to village officials that was stamped as received Jan. 17.

“Dear Mayor Hidy: I request that you accept my retirement effective as of Jan. 23, 2013,” the letter signed by Mr. Fregoe said.

Despite the wording of the letter, which he does not deny writing, Mr. Fregoe said he never retired from the position.

“You can’t retire from a job you don’t have,” he said. “Irregardless of what the letter said, the letter was to tell the board my last day.”

Mr. Fregoe recalled a conversation with the mayor in which he was asked how long he would be staying on after not being reappointed.

“I told him I wanted to stay on long enough to get through Frenchie’s and MED,” Mr. Fregoe recalled, referring to two major projects that were pending at that time.

Mr. Hidy sees things differently.

“Obviously Greg is mistaken. The fact that the letter is dated and signed by him indicates that it was his option to retire and does not support his letter to the editor,” Mr. Hidy said.

The mayor said Mr. Fregoe was offered a chance to return to the position part time with the village paying his salary for 20 hours per week and the town picking up his remaining hours.

“It was presented to him. He chose not to accept it. He refused to do it. It was his choice,” Mr. Hidy said, noting the reduction would have cost Mr. Fregoe his benefits package. “Being part-time, we did not feel that constituted vacation pay and other benefits,” Mr. Hidy said.

“Also taken into consideration was the fact that Mr. Fregoe is collecting a pension from the village as a retired foreman with the fire department,” Mr. Hidy said. “I think that anyone looking at this arrangement would see that he was being treated very fairly.”

Mr. Fregoe, who has hired an attorney, disagrees.

“I would agree that maybe retire wasn’t the right word,” he said referring to his letter.

Since he wasn’t reappointed to the position, Mr. Fregoe said, that made him eligible for unemployment benefits, which he collected from February through May, when he started a new job.

“Not only did the village not reappoint me, but when I applied for unemployment, the village contested it on the grounds that I was retired,” he said. “We had a hearing, and we already won.”

Mr. Fregoe said he and his attorney are reviewing whether he has re-employment rights.

The village is advertising for a code enforcement officer with the ad detailing a 30-hour position.

Mr. Fregoe said he plans to apply for that job.

“I’ll send my résumé in,” he said.

“I worked 32˝ hours per week and was never asked to reduce my hours to 30 hours per week,” he said. “The fact is that if I was reappointed in the December meeting, I would be working today in the code office.”

Mr. Fregoe, who had held the position of full-time code enforcement officer since 2002, said that if the village would simply have reappointed him to the position he had held for more than 10 years, none of this would have happened. He wouldn’t have an attorney, and they wouldn’t be seeking a new code enforcement officer.

“It would have been different had they reappointed me and I retired,” he said, adding that he felt especially hurt by the village contesting his unemployment.

“If the village didn’t contest my unemployment, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said.

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