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LETTERS: Reservations about possible appointments

— To the editor:

At the last Lysander Town Board Meeting, a concerned citizen asked the board if they had discussions looking into making some elected positions appointed. The board would not discuss specifically what positions they were looking at and the supervisor stated those talks had taken place in executive session, meaning they are yet to be public knowledge. I believe the positions they are looking into are the town clerk and highway superintendent. While many steps will have to be taken publicly to make these appointed positions, I have reservations about this idea.

If this is done with the intent of consolidation between Lysander, Baldwinsville and Van Buren, this could be an excellent cost-savings tool. This was not stated. Another plus to making these positions appointed is the town board would be able to look over many potential candidates instead of the public voting on just one or two people with a major party backing in an election that may or may not be as well qualified.

This plus is also a negative in my view. It would give the town board even more control over the separate facets of government. It would also give the taxpayers and voters one less opportunity to show their happiness or unhappiness with this official. The people appointed may or may not live within the town and their decisions may not directly affect their day to day lives.

Please call, email or talk to your town board members about this issue. Let them know your views on this idea.

Kevin Rode is a resident of Lysander.

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Comments

excessisoverated2 2 years, 4 months ago

Kevin - Thanks for keeping an eye on things. My questions is whether this topic was appropriate for an executive session. And, if it was, whether the board disclosed enough about the nature of the discussion afterward.

According the the New York State Open Meetings Law, these are the only valid reasons for convening an executive session to discuss personnel matters:

"...the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation..."

Also, from an advisory opinion issued by the Committee for Open Government: "It is noted that the Appellate Division, Second Department, recently confirmed the advice rendered by this office. In discussing §105(1)(f) in relation to a matter involving employment, the Court stated that:

"...the public body must identify the subject matter to be discussed (See, Public Officers Law § 105 [1]), and it is apparent that this must be accomplished with some degree of particularity, i.e., merely reciting the statutory language is insufficient (see, Daily Gazette Co. v Town Bd., Town of Cobleskill, 111 Misc 2d 303, 304-305). Additionally, the topics discussed during the executive session must remain within the exceptions enumerated in the statute (see generally, Matter of Plattsburgh Publ. Co., Div. of Ottaway Newspapers v City of Plattsburgh, 185 AD2d §18), and these exceptions, in turn, 'must be narrowly scrutinized, lest the article's clear mandate be thwarted by thinly veiled references to the areas delineated thereunder' (Weatherwax v Town of Stony Point, 97 AD2d 840, 841, quoting Daily Gazette Co. v Town Bd., Town of Cobleskill, supra, at 304; see, Matter of Orange County Publs., Div. of Ottaway Newspapers v County of Orange, 120 AD2d 596, lv dismissed 68 NY 2d 807).

"Applying these principles to the matter before us, it is apparent that the Board's stated purpose for entering into executive session, to wit, the discussion of a 'personnel issue', does not satisfy the requirements of Public Officers Law § 105 (1) (f). The statute itself requires, with respect to personnel matters, that the discussion involve the 'employment history of a particular person" (id. [emphasis supplied]). Although this does not mandate that the individual in question be identified by name, it does require that any motion to enter into executive session describe with some detail the nature of the proposed discussion (see, State Comm on Open Govt Adv Opn dated Apr. 6, 1993), and we reject respondents' assertion that the Board's reference to a 'personnel issue' is the functional equivalent of identifying 'a particular person'" [Gordon v. Village of Monticello, AD 2d (December 29, 1994)]."

I wish the press (including the Messenger) was a stronger advocate and watchdog for the Open Meetings Law.

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excessisoverated2 2 years, 4 months ago

Also - Take a look at this, recent and close to home: "The Open Meetings Law requires that a motion for entry into executive session must indicate the subject or subjects to be discussed. Based on a recent decision of the Appellate Division, as well as earlier decisions, a motion cannot merely parrot the language of a statutory ground for conducting an executive session. It is clear that describing an issue as a “personnel matter,” a “legal matter,” or “contracts,” without more, is inadequate and fails to comply with law. In short, the decision confirms that a motion to conduct an executive session should include information sufficient to enable the public to believe that there is a valid basis for closing the doors." http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/zehner.html

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Buzz 2 years, 4 months ago

@excessisoverated2. Where was your concern about the open meetings law when the previous administration was in power? They never officially went into executive sessions but held many meetings before and after Town Meeting to discuss town business. They never had an open work session to my knowledge. I will agree with you position on the open meeting law but find your timing and motives suspect. Your statement also applies to the School District which enters into Executive Session improperly. I think this is being considered as a way to crush the LRC strangle hold on this community and I am all for it. The level of informed citizens in this town is evident at the election booth. They elected a completely unqualified clerk over one with many years experience. They elect Highway Sup. with no experience either. They are either connected, name recognition or are the only ones running. At least as appointed positions there is the POSSIBILITY of getting someone with qualifications. There is also the POSSIBILITY of corruption but that isn't anything new to Lysander over the past 100 years under the rule of the Lysander Republican Committee.

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excessisoverated2 2 years, 4 months ago

Buzz - I'm not excusing anyone for violating the Open Meetings Law - now or in the past. But what's happening now in the Town of Lysander was relevant to the original letter. And, if we're going to fix it, we need to deal with what's happening today. Citizens and the media should make sure these laws are followed at all times and raise a stink when they're not. A couple other observations: Why does the Town take so long to post meeting minutes on its web site? OML requires them to be available within two weeks of a meeting. They aren't required to be posted on a web site - but they're public documents at that point whether they're "approved" or not. Why does the Supervisor feel he needs to be the gatekeeper of what's posted on the site? Doesn't he have a lot on his plate already? Also, has anyone noticed the job posting for a "Confidential Secretary to the Supervisor"? There's clearly friction between the Clerk and the Super but this doesn't sound like we should expect things to become more open to the public.

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