Man accuses Hartwick official of harassment

Vicky Klukkert | The Daily Star Sam Ross addresses the Hartwick Town Board on Monday.

 Hartwick Town Board members listened Monday night as part-time resident Sam Ross recalled what he described as disrespectful behavior from Town Highway Superintendent Fred Koffer.

Before the public comment began, Hartwick Town Supervisor Robert O’Brien said public comment was a time to address the board and not ask questions, and that the board would not address what was said during the public comment period.

“I would like to address the harassment I have received from the highway superintendent for the past five years,” Ross said.

He said Koffer and two or three town highway employees mocked him the day after he returned from his home in Georgia to spend the summer at his cabin in the town of Hartwick.

“He was making sexual comments in front of others,” Ross said.

Ross, who is gay, said Koffer has made homophobic and sexually explicit comments toward him at other times through the years. He said he wanted the board to know he contacted the police, and if the harassment continues, he was going to contact the state attorney general to investigate the town. He said he didn’t feel safe in his cabin.

Ross, a photographer, said he hasn’t been able to take photos because of the stress he’s under.

“Nobody deserves to be addressed like this. Everybody deserves respect,” Ross said. “We are all the same, we all have souls. I love Hartwick, it’s beautiful here. I am a success story of Hartwick. There are others like me who have come from Hartwick and are successful. We should focus on things that are good. Maybe Hartwick needs to address why this is allowed.”

After the public comment period was over, Ross left and the board continued with its agenda:

• The board discussed a lease agreement with the Cooperstown Youth Soccer League, which will use the town field for its practices and games. The organization consulted with an attorney and O’Brien said he received an email from the attorney requesting that the league be the one to terminate the lease instead of the town.

“I told the attorney that wasn’t going to happen,” O’Brien said.

The attorney for the soccer league and the town will now draw up a lease agreement and present it to the board members O’Brien said.

• Martha Clarvoe and Janet Williammee discussed NYSERDA Clean Energy Communities. Clarvoe said Hartwick has completed four actions and is now considered a clean energy community. She said most of the street lights have been changed to LEDs and the community is embracing the recycling efforts put forth by the town.

Williammee discussed the scoping document prepared by the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council and said if 10 people in Hartwick buy electric vehicles, the town would receive $5,000. She encouraged the board to install EV charging stations in the hamlet.

Clarvoe asked the town if there was a container they could use during Clean Sweep to put sliding glass doors into for easier transport. O’Brien suggested calling the county planning department.

• The board tabled for one week a motion to replace a truck body at a cost of $39,570. Members of the board wanted to know how old the truck was before the body was replaced.

“I’m not an advocate of putting a brand new body on a truck we’re going to replace in a year or two,” board member Chris Briggs said.

The board will hold a special meeting Monday, Aug. 23, before the Water District meeting to address the issue.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.

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