On August 15, 2008, Concerned Citizens for Honest & Open Government filed a Notice of Claim against the Town of New Hartford, the Highway Superintendent, the Town Planner and the Town Engineer and all the members of the Stormwater Committee to include two town board members. We felt that this disregard for the law had gone on long enough and if taxpayer money was being spent based on the recommendation of these individuals, taxpayers had a right to attend these meetings. Besides, the Town of New Hartford was not in compliance with the Open Meetings Law when, upon the advice of Town Attorney Green, they closed the meetings.
After we filed our claim, several members of the Stormwater Group became nervous, as well they should, and the consensus of the group was to open the meetings. It was suggested that Attorney Green should address the group and let them know what insurance coverage the town could provide in the case of a lawsuit. (We doubt that the town insurance will provide any coverage to protect people who are intentionally breaking the law.) Through a FOIL request, we obtained the minutes of the meeting the Committee had with Attorney Green. Amazing that the Town Attorney can even justify the purpose and intent of the decision to defy the law. But, we guess that according to them, the end justifies the means.
Next let us show you an email from Jerome Donovan sent on October 22, 2007 to Town Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland, Councilman Dave Reynolds, Councilman Robert Payne and Town Supervisor Earle Reed with a courtesy copy to Town Attorney Gerald Green, who also just happens to be the Town of New Hartford Republican Committee Chair. To quote Mr. Donovan's email:
"a group of self-appointed community activists who often distort and personalize issues".
"Over the past two years the town board has done much to address a number of issues left to linger by previous Town Boards. While some might argue that here has been missteps along the way, I believe on balance the Board has moved the town forward. Despite the loud voices of a few antagonist, I think residents by in large share this point of view."Amazing, we wonder if that is what Jerome Donovan thought of himself when he presented his rants regarding Preswick Glen to the previous town board? Wonder if that is what he thought when he emailed us and asked that we post his rants on our website? We did so because we believe that everyone should have a voice in how their government is run. Apparently, Mr. Donovan doesn't share our views about Freedom of Speech. According to Mr. Donovan's email he believes in a "...government of, for and by the people...", but apparently only if you are the "right" people.
The Observer Dispatch was provided with a copy of our Notice of Claim, a reporter was present at the September 10, 2008 town board meeting when the Highway Superintendent announced that due to the filing of a Notice of Claim, the Stormwater Committee has decided to open the meetings. Yet nothing has been printed in the Observer Dispatch...guess there are other more pressing stories that needed to be printed, like the one about the chickenpox outbreak.
At the town board meeting, Roger Cleveland asked the town board to pass a resolution to open the meetings, which they did, unanimously. Here is an excerpt from the September 10, 2008 Town Board Meeting Minutes:
Stormwater Management Improvement (Advisory) Committee Meetings – Reversal of Closed Meetings:Unanimously, because it is the law and there is a possible lawsuit out there to see to it that all meetings that are by law to be open meetings are just that...open to everyone.
Thereafter, Councilman Reynolds introduced the following Resolution, which was duly seconded by Councilman Woodland:
(RESOLUTION NO. 214 OF 2008)
WHEREAS, on September 12, 2007 the motion of Councilman Waszkiewicz, seconded by Councilman Woodland, that the advisory committee meetings – specifically, the Stormwater Management Advisory Committee meetings – be open to the public, had been defeated by a vote to 3 – 2; and
WHEREAS, the Stormwater Management Committee on September 9, 2008 agreed to open their meetings (working sessions) to the public;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby unanimously agree that the meetings, including working sessions, of the Stormwater Management Improvement (Advisory) Committee, be open to the public from this date forward.
Upon roll call, the Town Board members voted as follows:
Councilwoman Krupa - Aye
Councilman Reynolds - Aye
Councilman Woodland - Aye
Councilman Payne - Aye
Supervisor Reed - Aye.
Thereafter, the Resolution was declared unanimously carried and duly ADOPTED.
The only problem now is that Roger Cleveland can't seem to decide when the next meeting will be held. Opening the meetings and yet never calling another Stormwater Committee Meeting or not making it clear when and where the meetings are held is not going to end our Notice of Claim.
This is your government people; you can either sit on the sidelines and let them run it to suit their own needs or you can stand up and be counted! The choice is yours!