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Arbitrator will rule whether city employee should have been fired for taking recyclables

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A state arbitrator will be asked to rule whether the city of Ogdensburg acted properly in its recent firing of a city employee for allegedly stealing recyclable bottles and cans out of a city dump truck.

The Civil Service Employees Association has filed for arbitration through the state Public Employment Relations Board to settle the matter for former Parks and Recreation Department employee Bryan Pribble. Mr. Pribble was fired in April and charged a month later with petit larceny.

Mr. Pribble in his statement to police said his supervisor, Matthew R. Denner, knew he was taking the recyclables and condoned it, as he did for other department employees. Mr. Denner told police that Mr. Pribble took the items without permission.

The value of the materials taken, according to City Court documents filed by city police Detective Shawn M. Shaver, was $1.

That value is not lost on CSEA labor relations specialist Edward B. “Bud” Mulchy, who said the arbitration process will cost the city thousands over the alleged $1 theft of what was essentially trash.

“This is the craziest case I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Mulchy said Tuesday.

He said most PERB arbitrators get $2,000 a day, plus mileage and travel expenses.

“I’m guessing that it will be a minimum of $5,000,” he said.

That figure accounts only for the process.

Mr. Mulchy said if the arbitrator finds in favor of Mr. Pribble, back pay will be added to the total.

“He has been out since April 5, so he will have quite a chunk of dough coming,” Mr Mulchy said.

Mr. Mulchy said the union is asking that Mr. Pribble, who worked for the city since 2006 and earned $21,258 a year, be reinstated.

He said union and city officials met Monday to discuss the matter, but declined to say what was discussed.

Neither Mr. Pribble nor City Manager John M. Pinkerton could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Mr. Pribble has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Part of his job was collecting trash from city facilities. In Mr. Denner’s statement to police, he said he saw Mr. Pribble remove the recyclable bottles and cans, a broken bicycle and a shopping cart from a city dump truck and place them in his own truck at the former Mechanic Street pumphouse. The bicycle and shopping cart were not part of the petit larceny charge against Mr. Pribble.

Detective Shaver stated in court documents that the recyclable cans and bottles Mr. Pribble is accused of taking were city property.

Mr. Pribble told police he had been collecting scrap metal and selling it for extra money.

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