Well, about an hour after we blogged about our December 12, 2007 town board minutes FOIL request, we received those very town board minutes...attached to yet another email from the Town Clerk.
No wonder the town was dragging their heels on getting these minutes out...there is enough blogging material to keep us busy for the next week!
Let's start with the Public Hearing that took place at 6:03 p.m. Fortunately, Concerned Citizens audio-taped the meeting because after you listen to the audio-tape it will become rather obvious that the town board had no clue what the Public Hearing was all about. For that matter as you will hear for yourself, the Town Supervisor had no clue even how to conduct a Public Hearing. How long have they been in office?
Here is the audio recording of the Public Hearing on December 12, 2007.
At first, you will hear Town Supervisor Earle Reed start to conduct the Public Hearing without without first opening it up for discussion. Councilman Payne had to remind him to open the hearing.
Next, Supervisor Reed asks if Joe Booth, Codes Dept., is in attendance...he is, according to Supervisor Reed, "hiding in the back". O.K., Joe Booth is the person in the Codes Dept. who came up with the plan to increase the rates to begin with...what is he doing hiding in the back of the room?
Next, Supervisor Reed announces that the purpose of the hearing is to amend the fees for building permits, etc., but only for commercial properties...he further states that he doesn't believe that residential rates are affected. Supervisor Reed asks if anyone wants to speak for or against...mind you, at this point no resolution has been read. Guess no one wants to speak...so after being reminded by the Town Clerk, Supervisor Reed closes the Public Hearing at 6:06 p.m. and a vote takes place...again, no resolution is read prior to the vote. Supervisor Reed says, and we quote, "I would like a motion to move to adopt the new commercial rates for 2008". Councilwoman Krupa makes the motion and Councilman Woodland seconds it. The resolution is passed and the new fees become a local law.
Two and a half weeks after the resolution to adopt the local law is unanimously approved by the Town Board, we get our FOILed copy of the December 12, 2007 Approved Town Board minutes and they say:
The purpose of the Hearing is to offer the public an opportunity to speak in favor of, in opposition to, or to comment upon Local Law Introductory “C” which, if adopted, would amend Chapter 118 of the Town Code, providing updated permit fees for residential and commercial activity such as Building Permits, Demolition Permits, re-inspection fees, zoning variances, and the like.Surprise...!!! The rate changes are for commercial AND residential! So let's say a concerned resident attended that board meeting just to take part in the Public Hearing because they had questions or comments regarding the residential rate increases. Supervisor Reed says...residential rates aren't affected by these increases...what possible question or comment would be appropriate for the concerned resident to make regarding something that Supervisor Reed has said isn't going to take place? Might be why there were no comments at that Public Hearing...ya think?
We are providing a copy of the entire resolution and here is a copy of the "old" code and fees.
So why does the town board even bother holding an organizational meeting at the end of each year and making resolutions like:
VIII. LEGISLATIVE MATTERS:Basically, what we have here is either:
All resolutions, ordinances and local laws, other than routine resolutions approving payment of bills, minutes and like matters, shall be in writing and filed with the Town Clerk and made available to Board members not later than the Saturday prior to the meeting at which they are to be introduced unless this provision be waived as to any such resolution, ordinance or local law by a majority of the members of the Board present at such meeting.
Resolutions, ordinances and local laws shall be introduced in the regular order of business and shall be read aloud by the Town Clerk before being acted upon by the Board.
a. The town board purposely mislead those in attendance so that the board didn't have to answer any questions or listen to any comments...
b. The town clerk was not given a copy of the resolution on the Saturday preceding the board meeting as is required by the organizational resolutions therefore she was "helpless" to correct Supervisor Reed.
c. The town clerk got the resolution and never bothered to read it.
d. There is total incompetence in Town of New Hartford government. Not one of the 5 board members; or the town clerk; or the codes officer who helped prepare the rate structure; OR the town attorney (who was actually in attendance for this meeting) knew who was to be affected by the rate increase...how sad!
e. Any combination of the above...
At any rate, Concerned Citizens believes that the validity of that resolution and town law comes into question and it may well be advisable for the Town Board to rescind their resolution, hold another public hearing and concoct another resolution...this time following their own rules and reading the resolution out loud before the vote. To not do so, would probably further erode the public trust in New Hartford town government and it just might be illegal. How can the Town Board pass a resolution adopting a local law when they have mislead those in attendance at the Public Hearing?
In accordance with the Open Meetings Law, and as clarified by Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government in an Opinion written in 2000 and an Opinion written in 2005, Concerned Citizens will continue audio-taping and video-taping all town board meetings.
We will be pointing out some more baloney in the December 12, 2007 town board minutes in between writing about the year-end transfers and the 2008 budget.