Rotterdam's new assessor could be the old assessor
ROTTERDAM Rotterdam Assessor Craig Surprise could soon be replaced by his predecessor.
Surprise will leave his position at year’s end and could be replaced by John Macejka jr., the assessor he replaced nearly two years ago. Supervisor Frank Del Gallo said he hasn’t spoken to Macejka personally but knows he’s interested in returning to Rotterdam on a part-time basis.
“He indicated he’s interested,” he said Tuesday.
Del Gallo said Macejka, who is the full-time assessor in neighboring Guilderland, would take on the role in Rotterdam as a part-time worker. Members of the Town Board adopted a budget earlier this month that reduces the assessor’s pay from $66,610 to $33,305, making Surprise one of the only workers to get a pay cut next year.
“We’re going to bring a part-time guy in,” Del Gallo said.
Calls placed to both Macejka and Surprise were not returned Tuesday.
Board members narrowly accepted Surprise’s resignation during their meeting last week. The resolution did not appear on the board’s agenda and was voted on at the tail end of a meeting that extended for nearly four hours.
Lone Republican Gerard Parisi, who voted against the resolution, said the resignation included some sort of agreement with Surprise that appeared to contain a payout by the town. He said he didn’t have time to review the multi-page resolution, which was signed by Surprise and briefly circulated among the board only moments before they voted.
“I wasn’t provided enough time to look at it and I wasn’t provided a copy,” Parisi said Tuesday. “I really don’t know what was in it.”
Del Gallo’s run for office in 2009 included a pledge to reform the assessor’s office. In campaign literature he disseminated before the election, he pledged to restore “dignity and respect” to the office.
“The current assessor, Mr. Craig Surprise, does not treat residents or businesses with proper respect,” the campaign flier stated. “That’s wrong.”
Surprise is also involved in litigation with Del Gallo, who has challenged his property assessment for two consecutive years. The most recent challenge filed in Schenectady County Court in late July alleges that Surprise wrongly boosted the assessment of his business and residence despite there being no improvements that would justify such an increase.
Surprise was in the second year of a six-year appointment to the position, which oversees a property tax roll of about 13,000 parcels. He was appointed after the Republican administration of former Supervisor Steve Tommasone opted against reappointing Macejka, who oversaw the work of the private appraisal firm GAR Associates during the revaluation in 2007.
At the time, Macejka blamed Tommasone for playing politics with the assessor’s office. By appointing Surprise, he said the Republicans were looking to gain influence in office.
Within four months of taking office, Surprise uncovered what he considered to be a number of serious discrepancies in the town tax rolls. Under his advice, the Republican-dominated board commissioned a private study of the revaluation and then used the findings of the study to file a lawsuit against GAR.
To date, the lawsuit remains pending in state Supreme Court. Deputy Supervisor Robert Godlewski mentioned the lawsuit during last week’s board meeting as a reason to include more funding for the town attorney’s office.
Surprise has maintained a number of other positions despite serving as Rotterdam’s full-time assessor for the past two years. Last year, he won a write-in election to become the part-time assessor in the Rensselaer County town of Grafton.
Meanwhile, in Columbia County, Surprise serves as the assessor in the towns of Petersburgh and New Lebanon.
The state Office of Real Property Services also lists him as a contractor for reassessments and data collection.
Geoffrey Gloak, a spokesman for ORPS, said that it’s not uncommon for municipalities to share assessors. He said that having an assessor represent more than one community is fairly commonplace in New York.
“It’s definitely not unheard of,” he said.