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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Through the process of elimination…

Last week, the New Hartford Library Board of Trustees met in Butler Hall for the first meeting of 2014.

New board president, Jay Winn, started off the meeting with a discussion regarding the secret ballot vote for the election of vice president held at their December meeting.

At the December meeting, Trustee Wiatr brought forward the fact that according to the Open Meetings Law, each member’s vote must be publicly recorded; secret ballots are not allowed. That was not the first time that Trustee Wiatr objected to secret ballots; however, the previous board president was not open to listening to anything that Trustee Wiatr brought to the table.

But this time, to Mr. Winn’s credit, he actually took the time to speak to Robert Freeman of the Committee on Open Government regarding the vote and how the board could correct the record.

Mr. Freeman agreed with Trustee Wiatr…all votes must be made public to be in compliance with the Open Meetings Law. According to Mr. Freeman, the secret ballot vote taken at the December meeting could easily be corrected by asking each board member to state how they voted and then correcting the minutes of the meeting to reflect the vote of each member.

Simple enough, except that two board members still refused to say how they voted. One of the two agreed to write his vote on a piece of paper and sign the paper; however, Board President Winn let him know that his vote would still be a matter of public record in the minutes of the meeting. After further discussion, that board member blurted out how he voted.

However, the other member, John Klein, a board officer nonetheless, emphatically refused to say how he had voted. He didn’t care that the Open Meetings Law was being violated; he dug in his heels.

After much cajoling in an effort to convince Mr. Klein to just follow the law, the board president asked each of the remaining eight (8) trustees (Linda Romano is no longer on the board) to state for the record how they had voted. Knowing that the vote in December was six (6) for Ed Flemma and five (5) for Mary Du Ross as the next vice president, it quickly became quite apparent how Mr. Klein voted.

We just have to ask…what was his point? If everyone else makes their vote known, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how the last person voted. Is it really worth the embarrassment not only to Mr. Klein, but to the library as well? This is the kind of senseless b/s that has been going on with this board for the past several years.

We have to wonder if a trustee, particularly an officer, that openly and knowingly violates a law should be allowed to continue serving on the library board?

On a positive note, we have to commend Mr. Winn for his willingness to seek the advice of Mr. Freeman and his ability to keep the board on track. We are hopeful that this will be a turning point for the New Hartford Public Library; a step in the right direction.

One other thing, the new library director is definitely a welcome addition to our library and her experience will be invaluable in leading the library to success. If you get a chance, stop in and say hello to Elina Shneyder.

Here is the video of the January 15, 2014 New Hartford Public Library meeting:

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Hartford Central School Spring Coach Appointments...

At last Tuesday’s New Hartford Central School board meeting, coach appointments were once again on the agenda.

Since his election to the board, School Board member Ed Flemma has been adamant that coaches should not be appointed “pending certification” as has been the past practice of the school board. Mr. Flemma believes that no one should be appointed until AFTER they have met the requirements set forth by the NYS Commissioner of Education.

Mr. Flemma is entirely correct. The standards to be met for coaching are clearly set forth in the Rules of the Regents and Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Title 8, Chapter II Regulations of the Commissioner.

The part of the ruling that applies in this case can be found by clicking here. To read the entire ruling, please click here.

Ultimately, the school board and school administrator (Mr. Nole) are responsible for making sure that all coaches meet the certification requirement BEFORE they are appointed. However, apparently that is not the view of some of the members of the New Hartford Board of Education and the District Superintendent, Robert Nole. This is at least the third time since Mr. Flemma was seated on the board that the names of coaches not properly certified have been brought before the NHCS Board of Education.

This time, after Mr. Flemma voiced his opinion, two votes for adoption were placed before the board…one to not approve and one to approve PENDING certification. Neither resolution had a majority vote so the vote failed and no action was taken.

How did they vote on this important issue?

Board President Kim Luker, along with board member Paul Piotrowski, voted to approve PENDING certification.

Board members Jim Stephens and Ed Flemma voted to not approve until certification was verified as being complete.

Board members Beth Soggs and Lisa Philipson abstained.

An abstention basically means that they don’t have enough information to be able to vote. How long have they been on the school board? When did they think they might look into the issue and get the information needed to make an informed decision?

This May two school board seats are up for re-election; James Stephens and Kim Luker. If you care about the decisions your school board makes regarding your children, the choice should be an easy one.

The person recommended (a teacher in NHCS) was first appointed as coach in Spring 2010. The rules specifically say that a teacher must within two (2) years from their first appointment meet all the requirements set forth by the Commissioner of Education. Therefore, this person should have met the qualification in Spring of 2012. What would make anyone believe that there was an intention to complete certification at this point?

We videotaped the school board meeting. Here is the video of the portion of the meeting where the discussion took place.

By the way, the person you can clearly hear on the video sighing and saying “My God!” is the NHCS Athletic Director Peter Alvanos. He spent the entire time of the discussion fidgeting and sighing like a spoiled brat.

Note to Mr. Alvanos…When you feel you simply must be arrogant…look around and make sure that you are not sitting so close to a video camera when it is rolling!

Just before the meeting adjourned Board Member Paul Piotrowski chose to verbally attack Mr. Flemma. While Mr. Piotrowski is entitled to his opinion, perhaps he would better serve the school district by becoming familiar with the regulations instead of voting for the "family and friends" plan.

Here is that portion of the meeting:

Here is the entire January 14, 2014 school board meeting. The beginning of the meeting was devoted to Common Core.

May 2014 is not too far away…who do you want sitting on the New Hartford School Board of Education making decisions that affect your children?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hocus--Pocus! Abracadabra!

The $20 unit charge on the Town & County tax bill of every parcel in the Consolidated Sewer District is suddenly a user fee; that must be why the town decided to charge not-for-profits the $20 for sewers on their 2014 town tax bill.

According to an article in yesterday’s Observer Dispatch, not-for-profits are not exempt from user fees. Our research has confirmed that is absolutely correct; we agree.

While it is true that not-for-profits are not exempt from paying user fees also known as sewer rents, they are exempt from special assessments. And since to the best of our knowledge, the Town of New Hartford doesn’t have a Sewer Rent Law on the books, the sewer operation and maintenance charge cannot be considered a user charge.

The problem with assessments and special district charges has been festering for some time now. We bring inconsistencies to the town board and they consistently ignore us. But now, the Observer Dispatch is reporting on the problems with the sewer charges and three (3) not-for-profits are asking for a refund. Now might be a good time for the town board to take action!

Tyksinski is quoted in yesterday's OD article as saying:
“Not all exempts are in fact exempt from special assessments (like sewer fees),” Town Supervisor Pat Tyksinski said. “We’re not going to do anything until we figure out exactly what we’re supposed to be doing and how it’s supposed to be done and if there is a problem at all.”
Really, Supervisor Tyskinski? Do you really think that we presented that list of 88 not-for-profit parcels that are being charged sewer fees even though they are exempt from special assessments to you last February without first doing our homework. Trust us...every single parcel we listed is exempt from special assessments!

The Sewer Rent Law specifically states that sewer rents are “A scale of annual charges established and imposed… for the use of a sewer system or any part or parts thereof.” The law is very specific; the charges must be assessed to all parcels in the sewer district (several parcels are not paying the tax because of errors in the assessment database); and the charges must have a rational basis that must be delineated in the local law.

If a single family home pays $20 user fee/sewer rent and a shopping center also pays a $20 user fee/sewer rent, how could the town even be in compliance with a Sewer Rent Law even if there was one? What scale is the town basing this charge on?  That means that every parcel in the Consolidated Sewer District is being charged with no basis in law for the charge.

In a document written for the Dept. of Environmental Conservation by Bob Feller of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, titled Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Funding Document, he states:
User Fees

"There is no statute that authorizes user fees to support operation and maintenance costs for all types of capital improvements. The General Municipal Law Article 14-F authorizes the use of sewer rents for any municipality or municipal district that is operating a waste water system. It establishes specific bases upon which these charges can be based."
We have to ask, Supervisor Tyskinski, just how can the $20 charge that all sewers users pay each year all of a sudden (almost overnight) become a user fee absent a local law, ordinance or resolution? Or are you calling it something else? What basis in law did you use to continue to charge not-for-profits?

It's interesting to note that back in 1995 Supervisor Tyksinski was on the committee that worked on consolidating the town's sewer improvements and sewer district to form what is now known as the Consolidated Sewer District. At the time, County Comptroller Joe Timpano was the town comptroller and he was also part of the committee that worked on the consolidation!

Charging not-for-profits without the proper law in place is just one piece of the whole picture. There is more to this story..we will continue until the town board does the right thing...FIX IT!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Organizational Meeting...

The New Hartford town board held their 2014 Organizational Meeting last night, Wednesday, January 8, 2014.

Matt Bohn was appointed Deputy Supervisor and Herbert Cully was appointed Town Attorney.

The 2014 salaries for all town employees were set for 2014. You can see a copy of the approved salaries by clicking here!

A copy of the agenda for last night's meeting is available here!

A DFAFT copy of the organizational resolutions can be found here!

The entire meeting is available for viewing below:

Videos of town meetings are available on our YouTube channel at CCHOG.