Opinion: Colton resident says he attended chaotic Colton Town Board meeting
To the Editor:
I am writing regarding the November Town of Colton Board Meeting. Below is a recounting of my recollection of the meeting. Colton has a Town Board comprised of all new members in their current roles. I feel that it is unfair to think new people can go into those roles without training. I believe it would be appropriate in a situation like this to have the County Planning Office do a training session for all involved to define their roles. Training would have helped avoid the scenario below.I arrived at the November Town Board meeting on November 16th around 5:45 and signed in. Several members of the DPW were in attendance. A few town residents including Grace Hawley were also there. Mr. Robert opened the meeting.
Several in attendance asked for courtesy of the floor, stating that as taxpayers they should have courtesy of the floor. Mr. Robert stated that he had taken out courtesy of the floor for time purposes. Board member Kevin Beary stated that Mr. Robert did not have that power. At that point the discussion between Mr. Robert and Mr. Beary became contentious. Mr. Beary began reading from the Town Law Manual provided by New York State regarding the proper procedure to remove courtesy of the floor. Mr. Robert continued to maintain he had the power to remove courtesy of the floor.
Mr. Beary made a motion, seconded by Lisa Fisher, to leave courtesy of the floor in the meeting, and the vote passed against Mr. Robert’s objection. Justin Johnson asked for an executive session to resolve a labor issue. Mr. Robert raised his voice, telling Mr. Johnson that he did not have the right to speak. Mr. Robert, with an elevated voice, said the employee had been nothing but trouble. The environment was very noisy. The Town Personnel Manager was saying something to which Mr. Johnson responded, “That’s from my personnel file. Are you reading from my personnel file in a public meeting?”
Members of the DPW responded with raised voices, but no louder than anyone else, were polite, and, in my mind, did not cross the line to insubordination.
Mr. Beary made a motion to move the meeting into executive session, seconded by Mrs. Planty. Motion passed and the meeting moved into executive session with the Board, bookkeeper Shelley Rayner, Code Officer and DPW Superintendent Darren Richards, all DPW staff, and Town office/building cleaner, Ali Johnson.
As they entered the executive session, state police arrived and also entered the executive session. When the Executive Session ended, Board members Lisa Fisher and Randi-Lee Planty left the meeting. The meeting continued with the agenda with the routine business until the conclusion of the meeting.
The duties of the participants are defined in the Town Law Manual supplied by the State of New York. If everyone reads the manual and understands his or her role, we will begin to get a team effort with a common goal. This understanding is necessary for our local government to move smoothly into the future, earning the respect and support of employees and residents.
Edward A. Fuhr