Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunshine is the best disinfectant....

Today is the first day of Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to bring more transparency to government. The Empire Center works year-round to connect you with information about your state and local governments, but according to their Facebook page, they will be turning it up a notch this week.

Here's some of the information you can find in their updated State Budget Tool:


And in case anyone is wondering why I have not been writing to the blog lately...there's not really much to tell. After voting themselves a raise in the 2015 budget last November, the town board voted unanimously to only hold meetings once a month from now on!

Since then, the meetings have lasted roughly 30 to 45 minutes (including the time for any public hearings) with little to no information given out. Seems like New Hartford has become a "closed shop".

Plus, no one from the public even bothers to attend these meetings so, as Supervisor Tyksinski suggested at the last meeting, "That must mean that things are good! Everyone is happy, right?" Sadly, the Observer Dispatch doesn't even bother to attend the monthly meetings.

For the time being, I have decided to invest more time in my doll shop, Cloth Dolls by Stitch 'N Stuff, my Etsy Shop and my Craftsy Shop. I am also in the process of setting up an entirely new and different shop that will be open shortly.

I will continue videotaping town board meetings and posting the videos, time permitting, on my Youtube channel, but my blog writings for the time being will be limited unless there is something to report.

Visit New Hartford NY Online on Facebook. We often post interesting articles regarding NYS politics in general; stop by and "like" our page.

Have something you want to report? Remember, the New Hartford Tip Line is an open forum for anyone who would like to speak anonymously regarding anything in the Town of New Hartford.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

More Controversy Surrounding the New Hartford Public Library

Yesterday’s article, Can a Library Board Member also be treasurer?, on the heels of an article reporting an $11,500 shortfall in their 2015 budget, has to leave taxpayers shaking their heads. To think a couple of years ago, this board actually asked taxpayers to fund a million dollar library. The New Hartford Public Library board needs to get their act together.

Let me try to shed some light on the questions asked in yesterday’s article. While I am not an authority, I do have previous experience in the non-profit arena and research is my forte.

The article says:
”…Albany-based attorney Ellen Bach told local officials that, in her opinion, it is not legal to have a board member as a treasurer. She based that statement on a 1977 opinion from the Office of the New York State Comptroller, among other documents.”
I just happen to have a copy of the State Comptroller's opinion which states:
”Conclusion: A member of a board of trustees of a public library may not be appointed library treasurer.

March 8, 1977.”
Further, according to page 17 of a booklet authored by the NYS Comptroller:
Common Law Whitehall Doctrine "The Whitehall doctrine, as a matter of public policy, provides that a board may not appoint one of its members to a position (Wood v. Town of Whitehall, 120 Misc 124 (Sup Ct Wash Co), affd, 206 App Div 786 (3d Dept 1923)). (See also, Macrum v. Hawkins, 261 NY 193 (1933), and Matter of Brenner v. Vines, 35 AD2d 536 (2d Dept 1970). In Wood, the court decided that it would be contrary to public policy and the general welfare to uphold such an appointment. The recusal of the member of the board to be appointed does not remedy the conflict of interests (1995 N.Y. Op. Atty. Gen. (Inf.) 1074).”

"When public officers, such as the members of a town board, are vested by the Legislature with power of appointment to office, a genuine responsibility is imposed. It must be exercised impartially, with freedom from suspicion of taint or bias that may be against the public interest. An appointing board cannot absolve itself from the charge of ulterior motives when it appoints one of its own members to an office. It cannot make any difference whether or not his vote was necessary to the appointment. The opportunity to improperly influence the other members of the board is there. No one can say in a given case that the opportunity is or is not exercised. What influenced the other members to vote as they did, no one knows except themselves. Were their motives proper, based solely on the fitness of the appointee? They may have been. Were they improper, based on the promise or expectation of reciprocal favors? (Wood v. Town of Whitehall, 120 Misc 124 (Sup Ct Wash Co), affd, 206 App Div 786 (3d Dept 1923)).
The State Comptroller’s Opinion, to some, is just that…an opinion. However, in this case, the State Comptroller seems to have based their decision on a court decision.

Library Trustees are public officers and as such they have to take an Oath of Office. Whether the library chooses to adhere to the Whitehall Doctrine is their choice, but why wouldn’t they, at this point, want to remove any doubt of impropriety?



Yesterday’s article also touched upon a subject that has been a sticking point for a long time…the belief of some library board members that they are a hybrid library.

Just what is a hybrid library? According to the Library of Information Science:
“The hybrid library is a term that has entered the parlance of the library and information profession in the past three years. It is viewed as a halfway step towards the fully digital library.”
According to the NYS Education Dept., there are four (4) different types of libraries; hybrid library is NOT one of them.

So why does the library board think they are a hybrid library?

According to yesterday’s article:
”Mowat said the issue also is complicated by the library’s dual status as a nonprofit and a municipal library. She said it is a requirement of a nonprofit to have a board member as a treasurer who acts as oversight and reviews monthly banking activity, among others, whereas in municipal government the director of finance or comptroller does not have a position on the board.”
Ah ha! They think the library is a both non profit and a municipal library. That is entirely impossible according to Education Law Section 216. A library is chartered (incorporated) by the State Education Dept. and according to Section 216 of Education Law:
”…no institution or association which might be incorporated by the regents under this chapter shall, without their consent, be incorporated under any other general law.”
The library seems to be confused as to the difference between a 501(c)(3) organization and a non profit.

“Nonprofit corporate” status and “tax-exempt” status are two different things according to the IRS faqs:
• Nonprofit status refers to incorporation status under state law. • Tax-exempt status refers to federal income tax exemption under the Internal Revenue Code.
Education Law Section 216 establishes the fact that the library cannot incorporate under state law, but they can be a 501(c)(3) public charity; although it is not necessary; it only creates an added expense for preparing the 990.

According to the IRS, a library is automatically exempt from Federal taxes to include Federal Unemployment Tax and they do not need to file a 990. Under IRS rules, a municipal library is considered an instrumentality and would be exempt from Federal taxes and contributions would be tax-deductible so there really is no need for the library to have a 501(c)(3).

According to the IRS faqs:
”For non-tax reasons, though, government entities are sometimes asked to provide a tax-exempt number or determination letter to prove their status as a tax-exempt organization.”

”The IRS will issue a letter describing the tax status of government entities. Most organizations and individuals will accept this letter as the substantiation that they need. No application is required, and no fee is associated with this letter.”
So perhaps a call to the IRS might be in order.

One last thing, the library board needs to figure out whether they want to be a nonprofit or a municipal library because as a nonprofit it would be against the NYS Constitution Gifts and Loans clause for the town to give the library taxpayer dollars absent a contract with the town, and each village.

Frankly, this writer, who is also a taxpayer, is tired of hearing that the library is a “hybrid library” and yet they turn to the taxpayers every time they want money.

Get it together New Hartford Public Library Board of Trustees!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Marriott looks to PILOT their way into New Hartford…

Tyksinski, who frequently advocates for expansion of the commercial/retail areas of town, suddenly takes exception when a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) is requested for the Townplace Suites by Marriot that is proposed to be built off Middlesettlement Road in New Hartford. I blogged about the plans to build the hotel in my blog, Townplace Suites by Marriott coming to New Hartford?

According to Tyksinski, these kind of projects are generally only allowed for business parks.

At the November 19, 2014 town board meeting, Tyksinski asked for a town board resolution to allow him to send a letter of opposition to the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA).




According page 2 of the October 17, 2014 OCIDA meeting minutes, the developer, New Hartford Lodging Group, LLC., is also asking for mortgage tax and sales tax exemptions:
A request to consider an initial authorizing resolution relating to New Hartford Lodging Group LLC. The Applicant is requesting financial assistance in the form of mortgage tax exemptions and sales tax exemptions for a four-story, 98-room Townplace Suites Marriott Hotel on Middle Settlement Road in New Hartford.
The minutes further say:
D. Grow stated that this request is different than what the Agency has done in the past, and suggested inducing the initial resolution and hold a public hearing to see what the competition has to say.
A Public Hearing has been scheduled for December 17, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. in Butler Hall. If you wish to voice your opinion, plan to attend.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Just one minute and seventeen seconds…

that’s how long it took the town board to unanimously approve a board resolution to bond for $450,000!

No questions, no discussion except that Councilman Messa asked if the $450,000 includes the 2015 capital project amount. Tyksinski said no it doesn’t.

By the way, at the November 4, 2014 town board meeting, Tyksinski stated that the 2015 capital projects borrowing will amount to about $560,000. That's on top of the $621,571 that was borrowed in April 2014. Add to that the $2,580,000 that was borrowed in 2013.

No bond resolution was provided to the public at the November 19th meeting, nor was a resolution read prior to the vote as required by the town’s Organizational minutes that are adopted each year. However, we did get a copy of the resolution a from the Town Clerk a couple of days AFTER the board meeting.

While it is true that the town has to pay back Sangertown as a result of a certiorari settlement (copy of court order here), why wasn't this discussed in public session and why didn't one of the councilmen publicly ask if some of the reported $1 million plus Fund Balance could be used to at least lessen the burden on the taxpayers?

We can only make a couple of assumptions at this point. Either the town board discussed the $450,000 borrowing in executive session which is contrary to the Open Meetings Law; or they are completely clueless when it comes to representing the taxpayers in the Town of New Hartford. I would guess it is a combination of the two!

Watch the video and notice Tyksinski's reluctance to bring up the subject. Here's the video of the vote:



Update:

According to the article in today's Observer Dispatch, Sangertown wins tax grievance case; town, school district owe millions:
Mary Mandel, New Hartford school district assistant superintendent for business affairs, said that a course of action regarding the more than $2.9 million refund has not yet been voted on by the Board of Education, but they are confident school programs will not be affected.

Mandel said she could not comment on proceedings regarding the mall’s assessed value for 2013 through 2015 because the matter still is pending litigation.
That's exactly what I was told when I made an inquiry; the matter is still in litigation so the school board has taken no action yet.

The $450,000 Bond Anticipation Note is scheduled to be sold by the town on December 11, 2014.

So inquiring minds want to know...if the school is waiting because years 2013-2015 are still in litigation, why is Tyksinski in such a hurry to borrow money, particularly at year end?

I wonder why the attorneys for Sangertown would be willing to accept partial payment from the town when there is still pending litigation. Perhaps Sangertown needs their money as soon as possible even if it means getting some from the taxing jurisdiction that owes the least amount of money.

Sure does make one wonder the motivation for the town's borrowing now to pay a debt that is still uncertain because of pending litigation.

Now, that might be a good question for one of the board members to ask at the next town board meeting!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Supervisor Tyksinski says..."There is no contract..."

...Unfortunately, Supervisor Tyksinski, no ambulance district has legally been created either!

Once again Councilman Messa took the lead on introducing a motion; this time at the July 9, 2014 Town Board Meeting. There was very little discussion that would alert the attendees at the meeting as to just what was being proposed and certainly no mention of a letter being sent to Oneida County 911 by Supervisor Tyksinski asking that Edwards Ambulance be the primary provider of services in the Town Of New Hartford.

Here is the portion of the July 9, 2014 town board meeting relating to Councilman Messa's motion:



According to the July 9, 2014 Town Board meeting minutes, the resolution that was adopted was:
Edwards Ambulance – Primary Provider of Town of New Hartford

Councilman Messa offered the following resolution for adoption and was seconded by Councilman Miscione:

(RESOLUTION NO. 155 OF 2014)


WHEREAS, it is desirous to acknowledge Edwards Ambulance as a long‐standing company in the Town of New Hartford who has offered its service 24/7, twenty‐four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby designate Edwards Ambulance as a primary provider for the Town of New Hartford, NY, based upon the contingency of their presence in the Seneca Turnpike area, 24 hours a day, 7 day a week, and that they be made the preferred provider of the Town of New Hartford.

Upon roll call, the Board members voted as follows:

Councilman Miscione ‐ Aye
Councilman Woodland ‐ Aye
Councilman Reynolds ‐ Aye
Councilman Messa ‐ Aye
Supervisor Tyksinski ‐ Aye

The Resolution was declared unanimously carried and duly ADOPTED.
Both the motion made by Councilman Messa and the resolution in the July 9th town board minutes name Edwards as the primary provider for the Town of New Hartford; however, the letter from Supervisor Tyksinski to Oneida County 911 seems to conflict with the resolution by saying referring to service in the area of Seneca Turnpike. Is the town board designating Edwards Ambulance as primary provider to the whole town or just the Seneca Turnpike area as Supervisor Tyksinski’s letter indicates?  Are they targeting Central Oneida County Ambulance in particular?

Two problems…a town cannot pass a resolution mandating anything for the two villages that are situated within the Town of New Hartford…that’s the law. Also, a town cannot just willy-nilly pass a resolution for a primary provider of ambulance services! Nothing against Edwards Ambulance, but laws are there for a reason.


Fast forward to the Public Presentation portion of the November 5, 2014 Town Board Meeting. A person identifying himself as Attorney Brad Pinsky of the Pinsky Law Group addressed the town board. Listen to the town board and town attorney playing their “semantics game” trying to justify their position even though Town Law is quite clear…the town has not taken the necessary steps prescribed by law! They claim that their resolution is only a "suggestion" to Oneida County 911 Dispatch. Does a "suggestion" require passing a town board resolution?

Here is Attorney Pinsky addressing the town board at the November 5, 2014 Town Board Meeting:



By searching online, I found a report written by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), A Review of Options for Ambulance Services in the Town of North Hempstead. While this report does not specifically address the situation in the Town of New Hartford, it is a very thorough discussion of the laws governing ambulance service.

On page 9 of the report it says:
…a municipality may choose from two options in order to provide general ambulance services. These options include (1) contracting with one or more individuals, municipal corporations, associations or other organizations for general ambulance services or (2) establishing one or more ambulance districts to provide these services.
Each option has laws governing how the town board should accomplish their goal; the Town of New Hartford has not followed laws dictating how to accomplish either of the options.

Most importantly, the town board has not informed the general public that Edwards Ambulance is the primary provider in the Town of New Hartford and apparently Oneida County 911 has been using Edwards for all transport regardless of which ambulance company is closest to the medical call.

Whose interests is the town board serving…Edwards Ambulance or the residents?

Everyone o.k. with the game of Semantics that is being played by the New Hartford town board to skirt town law by quietly passing a resolution that could possibly affect the response time to your next 911 medical emergency?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Is this any way to run a town?

Two more motions were brought to the table at the November 5, 2014 town board meeting; this time to set a Public Hearing for December 10, 2014 to reduce the number of Planning Board members from seven (7) to five (5) and the Zoning Board members from seven (7) to five (5).

I recently blogged about this, Budgetary Savings Proposed by Councilman Messa…

The blog questioned Councilman Messa’s reason for making the motion at the October 22nd town board meeting. However, it became clear at the November 5th meeting that once again Councilman Messa was merely the messenger working on behalf of the interests of Supervisor Tyksinski.

At the November 5th town board meeting, Supervisor Tyksinski said he really wouldn’t mind if the Planning Board remained at seven (7) members. However, Supervisor Tyksinksi made it clear why he wants to reduce the Zoning Board of Appeals to no more than five (5) members and preferably three (3) members.

Why? Because, basically, he is tired of all the zoning changes allowed by the Town of New Hartford’s Zoning Board of Appeals undoing all the work put into the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Law that cost about $65,000 to complete.

According to Supervisor Tyksinski, if you need a roof over your porch and the Town Code doesn't allow it because of the setback needed…that is not a hardship and should not be allowed. He was pretty adamant about that fact; he actually believes that denying the majority of variances granted and cutting down on the number of times the Zoning Board meets would be in keeping with the wishes of the people the town board represents.

His point of view is particularly interesting since Supervisor Tyksinski lives in the Village of New Hartford and does not come under the Town Code regarding Planning and Zoning. Both villages, New Hartford and New York Mills, have their own Planning and Zoning Boards who control those issues under their own Village Code. So you might say that Supervisor Tyksinski wants to rule over what is allowed under Town Code when he won’t be affected by his own decrees.

The fact is… Supervisor Tyksinski is mixing apples and oranges. There are actually two kinds of variances that might be allowed by the Zoning Board of Appeals…an area variance and a use variance.

A use variance cannot be granted without a showing by the applicant that applicable zoning regulations and restrictions have caused unnecessary hardship; a very difficult requirement to overcome.

However, the use variance has nothing to do with adding a roof over your porch; it is “the use of land for a purpose which is otherwise not allowed or is prohibited by the applicable zoning regulations."

While I am in agreement that in the past many use variances have been given out that probably shouldn’t have been, lately the Zoning Board of Appeals has become more cognizant of their duty to pay particular attention to the criteria the applicant must present in order for a use variance to be approved.

On the other hand, an area variance is the “authorization by the zoning board of appeals for the use of land in a manner which is not allowed by the dimensional or physical requirements of the applicable zoning regulations.". It is the area variance that deals with fences, roofs, signage, additions, etc. that are not within the parameters of Town Codes. The area variance does not require that a hardship be proven and is often times the result of the changes in the Town Code over time.

The criteria to be used by the Zoning Board of Appeals for an area variance is:
“1. Whether an undesirable change will be produced in the character of the neighborhood or a detriment to nearby properties will be created by the granting of the area variance. 2. Whether the benefit sought by the applicant can be achieved by some method, feasible for the applicant to pursue, than an area variance. 3. Whether the requested area variance is substantial. 4. Whether the proposed variance will have an adverse effect or impact on the physical or environmental conditions in the neighborhood or district. 5. Whether the alleged difficulty was self created, which consideration shall be relevant to the decision of the board of appeals, but shall not necessarily preclude {emphasis added} the granting of the area variance.”
According to the NYS Dept. of State:
“The legislative body of a municipality cannot take care of the details which come before the board of appeals, nor should it.”

”In essence, a variance is permission granted by the zoning board of appeals so that property may be used in a manner not allowed by the zoning. It is only the zoning board of appeals that has the power to provide for such exceptions from the zoning.”
Further, the NYS Dept. of State says:
“The Court of Appeals held that:

“We conclude Town Law § 267-b(3)(b) requires the Zoning Board to engage in a balancing test, weighing ‘the benefit to the applicant’ against ‘the detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood or community’ if the area variance is granted, and that an applicant need not show ‘practical difficulties’ as that test was formerly applied.”
So I will ask again, should the town board interfere in the zoning and planning process by passing Local Laws each time someone submits a controversial application for a permitted use of land in order to unduly prevent the application from going forward... or should the zoning board, planning board, and other regulatory authorities be allowed to do the job they were tasked with by law?

Would the town board actions even survive in a court of law or might it be considered an "arbitrary and capricious" action?

And I will add another couple of questions…

Should the Town Supervisor have a say in who gets a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals and/or who doesn’t get one?

Should an area variance for a roof over a porch, or a 6 foot fence instead of the allowed 4 foot fence, or a few extra feet setback relief for your addition, and/or a larger size sign than the codes allow on a commercial building have to be considered a hardship before it will be granted?

Since the law doesn’t address the need for a proven hardship for an area variance, should the Town Supervisor set the law as to when a variance can be granted and require that a hardship be proven?

Anyone have a problem with not being able to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals unless you can prove a hardship yet to be defined by the Town Supervisor or is Supervisor Tyksinski correct in saying that this is the wishes of the people the town board is elected to serve? (Guess, he thinks because no one shows up at meetings, you are all happy!)

Finally, Supervisor Tyksinski, have you given any thought to the amount of revenue that the town might lose when the money received from the issuance of a building permit and other fees required under the Town Code in many instances relies on the granting of a variance, particularly in the older parts of town?

Below is the video of the town board discussion regarding the two local laws to change the composition of the Planning and Zoning Boards. But don’t go too far away, I will have another video for discussion tomorrow.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Be careful what you ask for...

In today's Observer Dispatch, New Hartford pilot wants to fly, but town might clip his wings.

Come on people, really?

Mr. Baldwin's property is in an agricultural zone that allows many uses that some residents may ultimately feel disturbs the "peace and privacy" of the Snowden Hill/Tibbitts Road area. NIMBY, or Not In My Backyard is not a reason to stall or deny a request of a permitted use long enough to pass a local law banning the use.   By the way, YES, Mr. Baldwin flies over my home and it really doesn't bother me.

Attendance at the Public Hearing for the Comprehensive Plan last June was dismal. So let me ask...is everyone aware of the other permitted uses that were recently added to an agricultural zone?

For instance, recently added to agricultural zone as a permitted use was recreational uses.

At the Public Hearing for the Comprehensive Plan, Supervisor Tyksinski was publicly thanked for adding recreational use by a group of people who are proposing to build sports fields on the 87 or so acres of property between Snowden Hill Road and Tibbitts Road; the property that the school was going to buy a few years ago.

Don't be lulled into thinking that you will forever enjoy the "peace and privacy" of your neighborhood merely by rallying and speaking against Mr. Baldwin's permitted use of his property. Those who perceive Mr. Baldwin's use as a disturbance may actually find some of the other permitted uses a lot less desirable. Eighty or more acres is a lot of land and with the permitted uses available in an agricultural zone, the possibilities are many!

You can check out all the other permitted uses by visiting the town website.

An aircraft landing strip was a use that was not permitted anywhere in New Hartford until the new Comprehensive Plan was adopted last June. Yet Supervisor Tyksinski appears to be completely shocked that airport/aircraft landing strip became a permitted use with the updated zoning..."slipped the radar during the creation of the town's Comprehensive Plan" says Tyksinski in today's Observer Dispatch.

Someone had to add the use as part of the updated zoning regulations. How does something get added and no one supposedly knows anything about it? What other surprises are on the horizon? (pun intended)

It is starting to be pretty clear that Tyksinski has a reason for preventing Mr. Baldwin's application to go forward. Perhaps it is because it would not be consistent with the recreational/sports field use proposal or perhaps some other plan is in the works for that property.

There are several regulatory approvals required that may or may not allow the use Mr. Baldwin desires. Mr. Baldwin has the right to seek the necessary approvals without interference of the town board.

Should the town ban all aircraft landing strips because one person is seeking approval or should the town leave it to the people who are better equipped to evaluate the request?

Think long and hard about this people...should the town board interfere in the zoning and planning process by passing local laws each time someone submits a controversial application for a permitted use of land in order to unduly prevent the application from going forward... or should the zoning board, planning board, and other regulatory authorities be allowed to do the job they were tasked with by law?

Would the town board actions even survive in a court of law or might it be considered an "arbitrary and capricious" action?

Before you answer, be sure to read my blog tomorrow regarding possible changes to the zoning board of appeals and planning boards.

Here's the Public Presentation portion of the meeting with Mr. Baldwin starting the conversation by presenting the town board with a petition containing 96 signatures of residents in close proximity to Mr. Baldwin who are in favor of allowing Mr. Baldwin to use his land as a aircraft landing strip followed by three residents speaking against Mr. Baldwin.



The next video is later in the meeting when the town board discussed the possible introduction of a local law to eliminate airport/aircraft landing strips as a permitted use in agricultural zones.

The video clearly shows that the one person at the board table most interested in passing the local law striking aircraft landing strips from agricultural zones is Supervisor Tyksinski; however, it was Councilman Messa who made the motion to hold a public hearing on the local law to change the Town Code. Surprisingly, no other board member seconded the motion, not even Supervisor Tyksinski, so the motion died.

It does seem odd that Supervisor Tyksinski didn't second the motion in order to allow a vote on whether or not to hold a Public Hearing. We will have to wait to see what the next step by the town board is...another attempt to introduce a local law or will they allow Mr. Baldwin to present his site plan review before the Planning Board confident that the Planning Board will categorically deny Mr. Baldwin. Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Budgetary Savings Proposed by Councilman Messa…

At tonight’s town board meeting, Councilman Messa proposed that a local law be enacted to reduce the number of members on the Planning Board from the present seven (7) to five (5). He also proposed to cut the Zoning Board from the present seven (7) members to three (3).

Councilman Miscione stated he would prefer that the Zoning Board of Appeals be cut to five (5) to allow for absences; however, Supervisor Tyksinski said he personally would prefer three (3) members.

Reducing zoning and planning boards requires a local law preceded by a public hearing. Town Attorney Cully was asked to draw up legislation to be presented for town board review at the next town board meeting when a date for the public hearing may be set.

According to an article in today’s Observer Dispatch, New Hartford discusses potential cuts to budget, Councilman Messa believes the cuts will save about $5,000.
Ward 1 Councilman James Messa said reducing the size of the Zoning Board and Planning Board to five members each which could result in a savings of about $5,000.

“I’m just trying to find ways to come up with additional savings,” Messa said after the meeting. “The Town Board has five members. I feel as though they can work with a reduced number as well.”
Not so fast Councilman Messa…did you check NYS Town Law?

According to the NYS Dept. of State in their Guide to Zoning and Planning Law in New York:
Zoning Board of Appeals; Decreasing membership.

A town board which has increased the number of members of the board of appeals to five may, by local law or ordinance, decrease the number of members of the board of appeals to three to take effect upon the next two expirations of terms. Any board of appeals which, upon the effective date of this section has seven members, may continue to act as a duly constituted zoning board of appeals until the town board, by local law or ordinance, reduces such membership to three or five. However, no incumbent shall be removed from office except upon the expiration of his or her term (emphasis added).

Planning Board; Decreasing membership

Decreasing membership. A town board which has seven members on the planning board may by local law or ordinance, decrease the membership to five, to take effect upon the next two expirations of terms. However, no incumbent shall be removed from office except upon the expiration of his or her term, except as hereinafter provided (emphasis added).

Below is a table showing each member of the Planning and Zoning Boards and the expiration of each of their respective terms.


The only person who could be eliminated by local law in time to affect the 2015 town budget would be Bill Morris, a member of the Planning Board whose terms expires on December 31, 2014.

Is Bill Morris, Chairman of the New Hartford Democratic Committee, being targeted for some reason?

Councilman Messa, at the moment it looks like your savings for 2015 equates a whopping $1,250. On a $14,054,634 Preliminary Budget, that is a mere pittance. Unless one more person from the Planning Board and four (4) people from the Zoning Board wish to terminate their appointment to the board early, there is no further savings until 2016.

Why the hurry? What’s the real story behind your proposal Councilman Messa?

Here is the portion of the meeting where Councilman Messa proposed the "savings".

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2015 Town of New Hartford Tentative Budget...

was presented to the town board at the October 1, 2014 town board meeting.

The town board will next meet on October 22, 2014 where it is expected budget discussions will take place.

Here is a pdf copy of the 2015 Tentative (Supervisor's) Budget.

The videotape of the entire meeting is available on YouTube!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Could we have some order in the Court?

At the July 9, 2014, the town board voted to terminate one of the court clerks; only one councilman, Richard Woodland, voted against the resolution.

The resolution that was entered in the July 9, 2014 town board minutes did not state a reason for the termination, but at the meeting Supervisor Tyksinski said it was because “the town was going in a different direction”.

Over the past couple of months the employee termination has been brought up by several people I have met; the topic even made it to the Utica Topix website.

According to Town Law Section 20, court clerks are appointments of the town justice(s):
“The clerk of the court of a town shall be employed and discharged from employment only upon the advice and consent of the town justice or justices.”
Talk around town is that neither town justice requested that the employee be terminated, so just what is going on?

Further research revealed that Town Law 20 was actually amended in 1990 so that the justices would have complete control over hiring and firing of their clerks.

In a NYS Attorney General Informal Opinion written by JAMES D. COLE, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of Opinions, on another question that also referenced Town Law 20, it is written:
"This language was added by chapter 252 of the Laws of 1990. The legislative bill jacket indicates that the sole purpose of the amendment was to require that town justices consent to the employment and discharge of court clerks. L 1990 ch 252, Bill Jacket, Memorandum on Senate 3566 and Assembly 5740 by Senator Volker and Assemblyman Graber.”
The reasoning for the change in Town Law 20 in 1990 according to the NYS Attorney General Opinion is:
“Each town justice is required to keep legible and suitable books, papers, records and dockets. Id. They are required to maintain financial records and promptly deposit all money received by the court. Id. For failure to comply with these responsibilities, town justices may be disciplined or even removed from office. Id. In order to discharge these responsibilities, local justices are heavily dependent upon the ability, industry and trustworthiness of the clerks of their courts. Id. Through the amendment to section 20 of the Town Law, town justices have been given the authority to consent to the employment and discharge of their court clerks on whom they rely heavily.”

But has it been tested in the courts?

Why yes it has…in RENO v. VAN VORIS, Supreme Court, Rensselaer County, November 6, 1996.


In that particular case, the East Greenbush, NY town board tried to play the "semantics game" by unanimously suspending one of their court clerks and argued that since she was suspended and not discharged, the law doesn’t apply. They further argued that one of the town justices was in favor of suspending the court clerk, but it was not the justice who was in direct supervision of the clerk.

The court disagree and "was of the opinion that neither contention withstands scrutiny". The court further explained their reasoning, but I won’t bore everyone with the facts; you can read the entire decision here.

In brief, the court said that:
”… the Town Board's action of unconditionally suspending petitioner without pay for an indefinite period is tantamount to discharge and thus falls within the purview of section 20 (1) (a).”

AND...

"The court concludes that under the strictures of the 1990 amendment, Town Board actions as to a court clerk may be taken only with the advice and consent of the Justice or Justices to whom the court clerk is responsible."
The court ordered that the petitioner be reinstated with pay and all applicable benefits retroactive to June 12, 1996" which is the date the East Greenbush, NY Town Board unanimously voted to immediately suspend her.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division who:
..."affirmed, agreeing with the lower Court that Reno's unconditional and indefinite suspension without pay constituted a "discharge" within the meaning of Section 20.1(a).”

"From a review of the memoranda in support of the bill, it is clear that the legislative purpose behind the amendment to Town Law § 20(1)(a) was to blend the actions of the Town Board with the wishes of the Town Justice to whom the Court Clerk reports and to provide Town Justices with control over the selection and removal of their Court Clerks".

"Therefore, based upon our interpretation of the legislative intent, we find that the action of the Town Board in suspending petitioner was appropriately annulled by Supreme Court as being in violation of Town Law § 20(1)(a)".
This time the court:
"ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, with costs."
An online blog, New York Public Personnel Law, wrote a summary of the decision in which they stated that “the Reno decision indicates that this 1990 amendment to the Town Law [Chapter 252, Laws of 1990] is to be strictly applied.”

So why does all but one board member, Councilman Richard Woodland, think they have the right to terminate a court clerk?


That brings me to the town board minutes of January 2, 2014, the day the court clerk was first appointed due to the retirement of the former court clerk.

According to the town board minutes, the court clerk was hired “for a 6 month interim period”.

Interim...a period of time between events. That’s a strange way to put an appointment!

What is more interesting is the fact that Supervisor Tyksinski was the only board member who voted “nay” for the appointment in January 2014. Why?

Given the b/s that has been going on lately with no bid contracts, it makes one wonder if Supervisor Tyksinski doesn’t have a “bucket list” called “People I need to pay back for helping to get me elected” because it sure sounds like Supervisor Tyksinski might have had someone else in mind for the job.

Sorry to say Supervisor Tyskinski, according to the courts, Town Law 20 is very clear...the choice of court clerks is definitely in the hands of the “Justice or Justices to whom the court clerk is responsible”. Doesn’t sound like there is any “wiggle room” on this no matter how hard you try to mince words.

Supervisor Tyksinski, the town board needs “to go in a different direction” all right. Do the right thing and reinstate the court clerk with back pay and avoid another lawsuit against the town...we have enough of them already!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Hartford Town Board...

The New Hartford Town Board meeting didn’t last very long last night…the executive session lasted almost as long as the meeting.

Nothing special to report at the moment about this meeting, but I did want to comment on a recent Observer Dispatch article, Another hotel planned for New Hartford.

According to the article:
The Hampton Inn & Suites at 201 Woods Park Drive, which opened in June 2012, and Ramada Inn at 141 New Hartford St., do not have anything to fear from the proposed new lodging, Tyksinski said.
Of course, Ramada Inn has nothing to fear, Supervisor Tyksinski, because the same company that plans to build the hotel off 840 also apparently owns the Ramada Inn.

According to town assessment records, the Ramada Inn was purchased by New Hartford Hotel Assoc. LLC, 382 East Second St, Corning NY 14830 on March 22, 2010.

382 East Second St, Corning NY 14830 is the same address on the site plan review for the new hotel except they used the name "New Hartford Lodging Group, LLC" on the application.

It is also the same address of Visions Hotels, who according to the OD article is the new hotel’s parent company.

In fact, according to a recent legal notice in the Observer Dispatch, a new LLC is now connected to the Ramada Inn, 141 New Hartford Street address:
OD: 8/20, 8/27, 9/3, 9/10, 9/17, 9/24/2014 LEGAL NOTICE NEW HARTFORD ENTERTAINMENT ASSOCIATES, LLC Articles of Org. filed NY Sec. of State (SSNY) 8/13/2014. Office in Oneida Co. SSNY desig. agent of LLC upon whom process may be served. SSNY shall mail copy of process to 141 New Hartford St., New Hartford, NY 13413. Purpose: Any lawful purpose. OD: 9/3, 9/10, 9/17, 9/24, 10/1, 10/8/2014
The questions are…what, if anything, is being planned for the Ramada Inn? And how, if at all, will that affect Mr. Adler’s hotel?

Politics in New Hartford, I could write a book, a real “who knows what and when” story, but I will have to settle for a few blogs now and then because my day job is calling for some attention at the moment! LOL

The September 24, 2014 town board meeting is now available on my YouTube Channel!