Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Big Picture - By Publius

Reader Publius has submitted the following remarks to the Gadfly Blog.  I think they deserve a Post Thread of their own:

As a reader of all four East Greenbush Blogs I would like to take this opportunity to make a few observations that may be helpful to East Greenbush residents from both sides of the aisle as well as the reformers.

First, there have been several posts about one side or the other being politically motivated by only criticizing their opposing politicians in relationship to inappropriate distribution of public funds. They are often paired with the observation that those who approved the appropriations are not those are currently serving in town government. They are incorrect. The most recent misappropriation of funds to an elected official was proposed and approved by the current Town Board. Resolution 165-2012 presented on November 14, 2012 provided for the $1,000 per year formerly paid to Town Supervisors in the form of “sick leave” payments be changed to regular salary to make the payments come into compliance with the OSC audit. The fact behind the obfuscating language in the resolution was that the audit found such payments to be wrong and our town officials devised a plan to “get around” the audit finding and still get the funding to the Town Supervisor. In this case, a citizen at the Board Meeting pointed out the inconsistency in the thinking surrounding the resolution and, as a result, the Town Attorney subsequently directed the Supervisor to return the $750 already illegally paid as his “sick leave incentive” in 2012.

The citizen in question was criticized in the TU Blog by the Deputy Supervisor who used all the tricks typical of those who discourage public participation in government. He implied that the citizen was unable to understand the situation, he was dismissive, and he alleged political motivation. The fact that the money was repaid and did not reappear in the 2013 budget proves the Deputy Supervisor wrong.

In the big picture, however, this event illustrates that the mechanism and the inclination to hide payments from the public exists in this Town Government! Our town leaders devised this plan during the same time period that they were (or should have been) digesting the audit and developing a plan for corrective action. We cannot continue to elect the ill-prepared and uninformed to public office and expect good government or ethical behavior. We must prevail upon both political parties to nominate candidates who are well prepared, beyond reproach ethically, and able to withstand the fallout that making hard choices brings. The person who appears at your door every year with nominating petitions is your representative in the party of your choice. Contact that person now, before the candidates for the fall are chosen, and ask them to find candidates who are experienced in government, prepared to do the work, and are of high moral and ethical character.

Resolution 165-2012 was proposed by Mr. Malone and seconded by Ms. O’Brien and passed by a 5-0 vote. Although the amount was small, the idea is flawed and, just like the stipends of old, the wrong minded public official has the potential to do much damage. Beware of the candidates who are endorsed by today’s sitting Town Board.

My second concern is the often used “interfering with the audit”. It is not challenged when it is used and it should be. Concerned citizens who contacted the OSC are exercising their responsibility as citizens in a representative form of government. The employees of the OSC and the town are the employees of the public. It is in very bad form for bloggers to regularly refer to citizen activists as interfering and not be called on it. The audit has unveiled wrongful acts and this disparaging language is one of the tools of those who are actively working against a meaningful corrective action plan. I urge citizens to support those who, like the Gadfly, ask hard questions and support meaningful reform.

Thank you for reading.