To the editor:
First and foremost, I would be remiss not to praise the performance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald after the damages from Tropical Storm Irene. These two officials came and looked at these damages within days. They marshaled a speedy repair of state highways in the region and set up the logistics to put us months ahead in achieving normalcy. They and all the DOT employees and contractors deserve high praise for their efforts.
But I cannot fathom why these administrators would frown when Mike Fayette did the same as I just did, and praise the successful response by DOT in a newspaper. He did not preclude the governor or commissioner from getting an interview in any newspaper. Newspapers exist to report that kind of news. It looks to me like some public-relations flacks in Albany got their panties in a twist. Job termination for talking to reporters simply is not a proportional punishment, especially when the free speech involved was of an entirely positive deportment. As a professional engineer with highway expertise and paid by taxpayers, his expert opinion should be sought by news reporters and available to the traveling public. This is definitely not conduct unbecoming a DOT professional.
We rely on all DOT personnel for their experienced eye for proper construction and maintenance, and they unfailingly do a wonderful job in the worst of weather conditions. But no state employee, including the governor and those in his cabinet, has a monopoly on emergent information as winter storms ensue. Mike Fayette was known for reaching out to local officials to gather timely dispatch information, which is critical for getting snowplows to where they are needed most. Our local highways are now less safe without him on the job, pushing for a better way and a better performance over yesterday's effort.
The Cuomo administration needs to reform its policy. It can start by reinstating Mike Fayette as the Essex County resident engineer. Speaking to the media, and to local officials in county and town government, should be encouraged when it is an effort to boost the morale of public employees to serve us better and public safety in general. This is the best public-relations message they could possibly come up with in Albany after this black eye: "Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way!" They need to get out of the way and let this professional engineer get back to his job.