FREEDOM — Supervisor Randy Lester is already at the center of a controversy over a wind turbine law in the town of Freedom.

Now, a town resident is charging that last week, town highway workers cut up a large limb that had fallen from a tree in front of a home on Route 98 — which the supervisor and his wife recently purchased.

The limb was cut up by highway department employees early on Sept. 11 and put in a town highway truck and hauled away, said Jennifer Daugherty, a resident who photographed the cleanup.

Daugherty said a “blatant misuse of taxpayers dollars today is wrong and last time I knew illegal.”

Daugherty said and her husband have filed formal complaints with the state Comptroller’s Office and Attorney General’s Office — including photos.

“I did not tell them to do that,” Lester said Monday when contacted by the Olean Times Herald to respond to Daugherty’s charges. Highway Superintendent James Haggerty directed the cleanup, he said.

“They do that in a small town,” Lester said. “I did not tell them to do it.”

He said the town had done it before when another limb fell from the tree about a year ago before he and his wife bought the 1880 Victorian home.

Lester was at the town hall when highway workers told him there was a large limb down at the house. He was concerned about the house.

“I was coming down (to the house) about 8:30 a.m. with a chainsaw and found the DPW workers and truck cleaning up the tree,” the supervisor said. “I got there as they were finishing up. I never instructed anybody to do it.”

The department told him they removed a tree under similar circumstances earlier this year on Cheney Road, Lester said. The tree was cut up and hauled to the home of an elderly woman who burns wood to heat her home. The wood was donated, Lester said, and no one else benefited from the wood.

Daugherty said she didn’t think the highway department would do the same thing for anyone.

Lester said he’d received a photo from Daugherty via email last week. He said he hadn’t seen her across the road taking photos at the time, but figured they would show up somewhere.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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