A City of Lockport employee who was relieved of her position amid questions about her residency in January 2018 was returned to the city payroll in a different position. 

Civil Service Secretary Mary Pat Holz confirmed this week that former deputy city clerk Shirley Browning returned to work as a senior account clerk at the wastewater treatment plant on Oct. 28. Browning's salary, $51,142, is the same as if she was still a deputy city clerk. 

Fourth Ward Alderman and mayoral candidate David Wohleben, who was acting as mayor last year when the decision was made to bring Browning back, said the decision followed a meeting with the city's special attorney from Albany. 

"After talking with the unions and the lawyers, I decided that was the best course of action for the city," Wohleben said.  

A CSEA representative said the union could not comment due to the settlement it reached with the city in the Browning case. 

The city spent about $22,000 on legal fees defending Browning's termination as a deputy city clerk, according to finance director Scott Schrader.  

Browning was relieved of her deputy clerk's post after then-Mayor Anne McCaffrey's administration argued that she was not a city resident and therefore was ineligible for reappointment to the post. At the time of her departure, Browning had served as deputy city clerk for eight years and had worked a total of 15 years for the city. She also held the position of president of CSEA Unit 7651.

Browning had moved to Gasport in 2016, and officials in the McCaffrey administration argued that the move violated the residency requirement for the deputy city clerk, which they said was considered a public officer's position. At the time, McCaffrey said she became aware of Browning's residence when it came time for Browning to be appointed to another four-year term as registrar of vital statistics. 

The Civil Service Employees Association filed grievances in March 2018 in an effort to return Browning to her post. 

The charter designates the deputy city clerk as an appointed public officer, along with the corporation counsel and commissioner of public works, among others.

Recommended for you