Thursday, January 29, 2015

It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over...

Here's Dwight Jenkin's letter to the Advertiser today about the potential shenanigans still in the minds of the local "players" who (in their fantacies) believe they own this town.  (I apologize if I'm taking liberties with the interpretation, but the lengths to which the "players" are going in some instances is nothing but arrogance personified.)

"Last spring, summer and fall a majority of the residents of East Greenbush made it painfully clear that a casino was not welcome here. Last spring, summer and fall the various boards that control East Greenbush (Town, Planning and Zoning) made it just as painfully clear that a small number of town employees and connected insiders did not care about the majority's position. Your boards did everything in their power to accommodate the casino developers, to include the approval of a Planned Development District ( PDD) which would carve out a home for the unwanted casino in an area of town not zoned for casinos or any other commercial development. Fortunately the Gaming Commission's Site Location Board did not recommend a casino in East Greenbush, but that doesn't mean your town boards are closing the door in the developer's face. To the contrary, we have recently heard from two town officials that big plans are still in the works for what we all thought was a dead-on-arrival PDD, with the developer allegedly asking for an extension on the life of that PDD. Why do that? No one is saying, but this we can say: the PDD has not been withdrawn, and Save East Greenbush, the grass-roots group which sprang up to help stop the casino, is still watching and still has legal bills to pay. We must finish what we started and close the door on the still-kicking PDD Zoning vote. Save the date: let's meet at 7:00 PM on FEBRUARY 10 at the EG Public Library. We'll be discussing what's left to accomplish and how we plan to shut the door on this unwanted PDD once and for all. We'll have refreshments and some fantastic fund-raising plans that you'll definitely want to be part of. Hope to see you there!"

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ethics takes a "Hit"

After Herculean efforts over the past few years to get responsible and accountable Town ethics policies and procedures in place to protect the interests of citizens, it appears that the political establishment has conspired once again to protect itself from accountability.  Here are the two letters on the issue from today's edition of the Advertiser by Mary Ann Matters and Jack Conway:

At the East Greenbush town board meeting of December 17th, I moved a resolution to hold a public hearing on amending the town code of ethics to allow residents to file ethics complaints against town employees and to request advisory opinions from the board of ethics.  Although this resolution was the most important resolution that I’ve had the honor of sponsoring since taking office, unfortunately, I was unable to garner enough support for it to pass.  Anytime a town board action gives residents the opportunity to be heard and to be part of the process of governing, it is important.  The fact that this particular resolution failed to pass was indicative of a “double whammy” against East Greenbush residents.
Insulting as it is to deny residents the right to allege wrongdoing by town employees to the town’s bipartisan ethics board and to request advisory opinions from them, not allowing residents to even express themselves at a public hearing on the proposed ethics-code amendment is tantamount to placing a gag order on all residents who would choose to reach out as part of the very process that was created for their benefit; for them to be cut out of it altogether is utterly absurd.
During the last town board meeting, some board members expressed their concern over the notion of being impacted or even inconvenienced by complaints submitted against them by residents.  Such attitude is not only vile and blatantly self-serving, it also shows utter contempt toward the spirit of the entire town code of ethics.
The right of resident participation in the town’s ethics processes is fundamental toward ensuring that the ethics board has complete and unfettered access to all sources of grievance concerning the conduct and performance of all town employees, be they elected or appointed.  In fact, the town code of ethics exists not to protect town employees, but to protect town residents.
I urge residents to voice your concerns on this issue at the next town board meeting scheduled for January 21, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. at town hall.  Please e-mail me at if you have any questions.

~Mary Ann Matters, East Greenbush Town Board

East Greenbush Town Board Takes a Stand Against Ethics

At its December meeting, the East Greenbush Town Board voted against a resolution that would allow residents to file complaints with the Board of Ethics regarding the actions of town officials.  Supervisor Keith Langley even argued that allowing the public to file ethics complaints could hurt his re-election bid this year.  This issue arose when the Town Attorney discovered a loophole in the Code of Ethics that prohibits residents from filing complaints.  As the former Chairperson of the Board of Ethics, I can attest that the five members of that board who drafted the Code, the previous Town Attorney and all five members of the Town Board who approved the Code believed that it included the right of residents to file complaints.  Thus, Councilperson Mary Ann Matters introduced a resolution to close the loophole but the Board rejected it by a 3-2 vote.  Supervisor Langley and Councilpersons Sue Mangold and Deb DiMartino cast the ‘No’ votes.

The purpose of a Code of Ethics is to assure the public that every action taken by town officials is taken in the public interest and not for the benefit of an individual, family, business, political party or other entity.  Since only the public can truly determine its own interests, the latest action of the East Greenbush Town Board has the effect of disabling the Code of Ethics and rendering the Board of Ethics unnecessary.  Supervisor Langley’s comment about his re-election prospects reflects his belief that the public interest is less important than his own political fortunes.  The Board’s action is consistent with the cult of secrecy that has pervaded Town Government under this Supervisor.  He has scheduled special meetings at inconvenient times to suppress resident turnout and hide inconvenient truths such as the settlement of a discrimination suit or, most egregiously, his effort to sneak a casino into town against the wishes of the vast majority of town residents.

With this latest vote against ethics, the Town Board has taken an aggressive stance against open and accountable government, and encouraged the conflict of interest-ridden insider trading that has been the hallmark of our local government.  Come to the January 21st Board meeting where this resolution will be introduced again and demand ethical conduct and accountability from a reluctant Town Board.

Jack Conway