THURMAN - The Thurman Town Board and Warren County both received a letter from the state Dept. of Labor this week indicating that former Supervisor John Haskell has applied for unemployment benefits. The letter asks the municipalities to either confirm or refute the claim depending on its validity.
Haskell was removed from office after he was convicted last month of defrauding the government, a felony. The jury found that Haskell had altered documents in order to grant himself a land easement - a right-of-way to a landlocked piece of property he owned.
The county has sent forms back to the state refuting the claim, but as of Tuesday, the town hadn't made a decision over what to do about it.
County officials said they responded to the state citing their legal advice that Haskell does not qualify for unemployment benefits due the circumstances surrounding his departure from office, officials said.
"He just doesn't qualify for unemployment plain and simple," County Administrator Hal Payne said Tuesday.
The county's decision was based on Warren County Attorney Paul Dusek's understanding of New York State Law, Payne said.
As of Tuesday, Thurman Town officials had yet to decide how they'd respond to the unemployment claim sent them by the state.
Supervisors receive pay primarily from their hometowns, but also smaller stipends from the county.
According to the state Dept. of Labor, if the town board doesn't refute the claim, Haskell would receive $2,835 or $405 per week for the first seven weeks, compensating him for the loss of the town-sponsored portion of his pay. Haskell could potentially receive benefits for 26 weeks, all of which would come directly out of town coffers.
County officials said this week that unlike businesses, municipalities pay 100 percent of the unemployment compensation rather than claims merely boost insurance rates.
If a claim is approved, benefits are paid by the state, and the responsible municipality refunds the state dollar for dollar, they said.
If approved by the town board, Haskell could receive up to $5,438 of local taxpayer money over the 26-week period, according to the state Labor Dept.
The decision of whether to contest the town's portion of the claim has not yet been made, Thurman officials said.
"He is of course entitled to submit a claim," Thurman Board Member Ruth Keller said Monday. "In my personal opinion, I think the taxpayer has paid his way long enough."
Acting Thurman Supervisor Leon Galusha confirmed that the letter has been received by the town, but would not comment on whether payment to Haskell would be appropriate or legally correct.
"From what I understand, it is up to the unemployment office at the department of labor," Galusha said Monday. "I plan on making some phone calls and learning more about what exactly the town's role is in the process."
This isn't the first time a displaced Warren County Supervisor has submitted an unemployment insurance claim.
Former Horicon Supervisor Wayne Monroe, who was ousted from office by voters in 1997, filed an unemployment insurance claim shortly after the election.
For several months, Monroe's claim went unchallenged and he received unemployment benefits, Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley recalled Monday.
But the county government later challenged the claim based on Dusek's determination it was invalid, and the town and county both sought repayment, Bentley said. Monroe repaid several month's worth of benefits, Bentley added.
Adirondack Journal editor Thom Randall contributed to this report.