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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Why do we audio-tape and now video-tape...

all town board meetings?

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:

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.
Basically, what we have here is either:

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.

Stay tuned...!!

7 comments:

Rob Bluey said...

I can see nothing has changed from the days I used to cover the town board meetings for the New Hartford News during the Bill Kaiser era. Don't be discouraged; your work is valuable and important.

Anonymous said...

Why are you guys not filing an Article 78 against the Town?

This is utterly rediculous, and shows that these folks have no regard for the law, and even worse, they obviously know you guys are keeping an eye on them and they continue to disregard you as irrelevant. It's time to take a stand!

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Rob,

Thank you for the words of encouragement. We are far from discouraged...Concerned Citizens is committed to making a change for the better. We will do whatever it takes to "get the job done".

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Anonymous,

Believe us when we say they do not regard us as irrelevant. They just can't help themselves...they are greedy and totally incompetent.

We are planning our strategy and we do believe that some surprises will be in store for this "crew" in the very near future.

Disgusted in New Hartford said...

I read one of the Opinions you included in your blog. I found this passage (below) very interesting"

Public Officers Law sec. 107(1) specifically provides that 'the court shall have the power, in its discretion, upon good cause shown, to declare any action *** taken in violation of [the Open Meetings Law], void in whole or in part.' Because we find that a prohibition against the use of unobtrusive recording goal of a fully informed citizenry, we accordingly affirm the judgement annulling the resolution of the respondent board of education" (id. at 925).

If the New Hartford Town Board elected officials do not comply with the law...then I believe the time has come to put forth an Article 78 Petition seeking attorneys fees, court costs and any other costs deemed worthy of reimbursement by the Court.

Additionally, I would ask that punitive damages be assessed personally against all Town Officials who have acted with malice in these matters.

Earl Reed and his colleagues are nothing short of a bunch of inept and incompetent idiots. My four year old son is more intelligent than these jackasses.

Anonymous said...

Article 78: Hire an attorney, file for an RJI number, etc, etc ... $,$,$.

File? On whose dime, may I ask?

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Anonymous,

There are many ways to "attack" this. It just takes a little time and patience. Concerned Citizens is doing many things "behind the scenes". We firmly believe that "surprises" are in store for many who think they are above the law. As they say, "it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings".