Petition signed by over 300 calls for public referendum to overturn recent Ogdensburg charter change
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – Ogdensburg City Council was handed a petition with more than 300 signatures during a public meeting Monday calling for a public referendum to overturn a charter change that transfers the power of the city manager to hire and fire department heads to the city council.
The petition was presented by former city councilor Doug Loffler who told the council that acquiring the signatures was “not difficult.”Loffler said only three who were approached declined to sign it.
The law was passed at the previous meeting and drew stark criticism from some members of the public, including former city councilors and a former police chief.
Loffler shared several comments he and others circulating petitions said they received form those who signed. The comments ranged from calling the four newest elected members of council close-minded to referring to them as liars.
The petition was given to the city clerk and will be reviewed by the city attorney.
Loffler wasn’t the only one to address the council.
Former councilors David Price and Jennifer Stevenson also shared harsh words for the mayor and council.
“To the four to three majority bloc, during the election campaign, you distorted several truths, promoted hyperbole, made false promises, engaged in character assassination, and resorted to outright lies, with the intent to dupe the citizens of this city, and to gain their confidence and votes. You were all successful, you fooled the people into drinking the kool-aid, and thus were elected. However, the people are now starting to see the light. They are paying attention to your words and actions, now more than ever before, and have seen that your true colors are beginning to shine through, because your actions are completely contrary to your promises,” Price said. “You promised transparency, open dialogue, and that you would follow the will of the people. All lies.”
Price went on to criticize councilors Bill Dillabough, Steven Fisher and Mayor Jeffrey Skelly and Deputy Mayor John Rishe for hurting the city.
“So far, your only accomplishments have been to divide the citizens of the city, eliminate public safety positions sacrificing the safety of the citizens, and to take credit for actions of the previous council,” he said.
“During a time of great stress and anxiety in our world, you have provided our citizens with uncertainty and despair. That’s because you, the 4 2 3 majority, have built a house of cards upon a foundation of lies.”
His words garnered applause from many in attendance.
As the meeting went on several outbursts from the public were met with harsh responses from Mayor Skelly, who threatened to have at least one person removed.
Bitter exchanges also occurred between council members during a variety of discussions that took place.
What will happen with the petition remains a question.
City attorney Scott Goldie says holding a referendum on the matter would violate state law.
The charter clearly allows for a petition to be filed and a referendum to be held.
Organizers of the petition say they have opinions from other attorneys that contradict Mr. Goldie’s statement.
City Manager Stephen Jellie said the issue will be reviewed.