(Correction: This story has been updated to show that Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski referred to social media posts by Councilman Brian Pilarski as “hinging on libel and slander” after the quote was incorrectly attributed as a reference to another party. We regret the error.)

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Cheektowaga Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner confirmed to News 4 that highway plow drivers walked off the job on Wednesday.

Wegner said he was told by his General Foreman that a number of plow drivers walked off after Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski criticized them for not clearing streets fast enough.

Benczkowski disputed this, saying the claims of employees walking off the job are false. She says she was told plow drivers were mistakenly sent home after 9 hours of work instead of 12. She also called social media posts by Councilman Brian Pilarski “hinging on libel and slander.”

Per Wegner, plow drivers had to conduct search-and-rescue operations, which slowed down their snow removal efforts. He said Benczkowski apologized to the drivers, who subsequently returned to work after around two hours.

“Mark Wegner is out of town and put the General Foreman in charge of the snow cleanup crews so he told me to call the General Foreman, which I did,” Benczkowski said. “I asked him why he cannot put more of our own highway plows on the roads to speed up the clean up process. After all, we are in day 6 of this storm, and some residents have not been able to leave their homes or have see a plow yet.”

Benczkowski said residents wanted answers and that she was within her scope to ask those questions of the highway crews. She said after she had heard workers were ordered to go home, she met with the General Foreman, a working foreman, and the Highway Engineer, and the group recognized the miscommunication and fixed it.

“I have the utmost respect for our highway workers and am grateful for all they did through this horrific storm and what they do,” she said. “So whoever is spreading these slanderous lies and trying to ruin my reputation should be ashamed of themselves.”

According to Benczkowski, the second shift is on duty for 12 hours and the private contractors have not stopped working.  She thanked all the highway workers who have worked around the clock to help clear snow.

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Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.