February 22, 2014
To my fellow taxpayers and residents in the Town of New Baltimore:
I would like to update you on recent activities in our Town Hall and encourage all members of our community to attend the Town Board Meetings. The meetings are on the second and fourth Monday of each month and the next meeting is scheduled for March 10, 2014.
As you know, the newly elected Supervisor (Mr. Dellisanti) and board members (Ms. Van Ettan, Mr. Ruso) since January 2014 have been actively working to address many outstanding issues left by the previous administration such as purchasing practices, transparency, and issues affecting taxpayers.
I would like to address several issues that have been brought to the Board for action but have been delayed by the boardmembers, Ms Benway and Mr Norris, carry – overs – in – office from the previous administration. Members of the community can only assume, based on Ms Benway’s and Mr Norris’ conduct, that their allegiance is not to the taxpayers and our community. Therefore your participation is needed.
The previous administration may have had policies on the books (procurement/F.O.I.L.) but Ms. O’Rourke, Ms. Benway, Mr. Norris, Ms. Brooks, Mr. Jordan all chose not follow that law – based policy, which is in part required by New York state law. The newly elected officials, supervisor Dellisanti, boardmembers Ruso and vanEtten, propose policy to carry out state and federal mandates that all elected/appointed local government officials must comply with.
In January Mr. Dellisanti presented to the Board a Resolution to implement a revised Procurement Policy that includes a purchase requisition process, which when implemented should prevent future misuse of funds by the officials and employees of the Town of New Baltimore. Mr Delisanti, Ms Van Ettan, and Mr Ruso voted in favor of this resolution. Mr Norris and Ms Benway voted AGAINST the resolution to adopt that Procurement Policy. Under the O’Rorke regime, these two board members with the collaboration of the O’Rorke Majority (O’Rorke, Benway, Norris) of the previous administration spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money illegally, this is a fact based on the New York State Comptroller’s Audit Report. One would think they would jump at the opportunity to protect the taxpayers’ dollars as well as protect themselves from allegations of unlawful or even criminal activity.
At the February 10, 2014, meeting town attorney Tal Rappleyea provided a synopsis of the Policy and further clarification. The Revised Procurement Policy requires the use of purchase orders/requisitions that would include details such as bids and prices of proposed products and services, in order to justify that purchase. Ms Benway and Mr Norris consistently to question the need for such practices. In fact at the February 10th meeting, Mrs. Benway again expressed her concern for their use! [Editor’s Note: The use of purchase orders / requisitions and justification of need, plus documentation of competitive bidding is just plain good business practice, ensuring that the interests of the public are safeguarded, and public monies are spent responsibly! It’s part of transparency and accountability, something apparently alien to Benway and Norris!]
At that same February 10th town board meeting Mr Dellisanti proposed a resolution- to Adopt Minor Corrections to the Procurement Policy to correct the typographical errors in the previously approved Procurement Policy Resolution; both Mr Norris and Ms Benway voted against the corrections! [Editor’s Note: It sounds to us that Norris and Benway are just being difficult, wasting the board’s time, and ignoring the real needs of the town. They’re abusing their public office!]
Resolution to Adopt FOIL Policy
Based on the many complaints from the community, the previous Administration, former supervisor O’Rourke, and town clerk Janet Brooks had a very distorted and perverse view of compliance with NYS Freedom of Information Law. At the February 10, 2014 town board meeting, Ms Diane Lewis, chair of the New Baltimore Democratic Committee and wife/confidential secretary to former town supervisor David Lewis, voiced from the audience that a F.O.I.L. policy already existed. [Editor’s Note: To be honest, Lewis has no standing to comment on what policies exist, don’t exist or exist and must be amended; Diane Lewis, despite her arrogance, is not on the board and is just one of us now. So cool your jets, Diane!] Based on the many complaints from the public, town clerk – Mrs. Janet Brooks, seems to be unaware of this existing policy, or does not understand it, or just doesn’t follow it!
The FOIL policy during the previous administration was ignored as was the procurement policy.
Based on information from the February 10th meeting, the purpose of the revised FOIL policy is to provide a more comprehensive and detailed description of the Town’s responsibility to provide information in a timely and comprehensive manner when demands for disclosure under the provisions of the New York State Freedom of Information Act are received by the town clerk. Among other things, the policy also re-identifies that it is the Town Clerk’s responsibility to respond to these requests based on timeframes established by the law, to keep a record of each request, and report to the Board on F.O.I.L. requests received.
At the February 10, 2014 meeting Mr. Norris and Mrs. Benway questioned the purpose of the Resolution and were very concerned as to whether or not Mrs. Brooks, the Town Clerk was involved in the preparation of the Resolution. [Editor’s Note: There is no requirement or necessity for the Town Clerk to be involved in such a resolution. The resolution is a governing activity and is under the sole authority of the town board. The town clerk’s obligation and duty is to comply with the town board’s legislation and the law of New York! Besides, the board would have to catch her when she’s in, and that could be a problem, given her hours.] We the community must remind Ms Benway and Mr Norris that under Town Law the BOARD has the authority to prepare and adopt policy. We further remind Ms Benway and Mr Norris, and if necessary, Ms Brooks, that the CLERK has the obligation to comply with resolutions duly passed by the board. If the clerk has a question it should be presented like anyone else during public session and in the time allowed. It should also be noted that Mrs. Brooks’ known previous performance clearly demonstrates that not only did she not follow the simplistic policy of the O’Rorke Administration, she never took the initiative to ensure the taxpayers obtained requested information based on New York state law. Under the NYS Town Law and as an elected official, Ms Brooks has the duty and responsibility to understand her duties and role as town clerk, to be responsive to the public no matter what directive she may have received from others, particularly if such directive was contrary to policy or law!
It should be noted that Ms Brooks, at the December 2013 Board Meeting, expressed on the record how she could not keep up with the high volume of FOIL requests and recommended that the public be charged more money for their requests. [Editor’s Note: Why more money, Ms Brooks? Should we dock you for the hours you don’t show up for work and apply that to offset the cost of fulfilling F.O.I.L. requests?] Ms O’Rorke, Mr Norris and David Wukitsch (then town attorney, since fired) supported her dilemma. Individuals attending that meeting asked how many F.O.I.L. request Mrs. Brooks had received – she DID NOT KNOW! Mrs. Brooks advised “that it was difficult to know” and O’Rorke, Norris, Benway, Wukitsch supported her confusion and ignored residents’ questions! This discussion was approximately 30 + minutes and Ms. Brooks had no factual information to support her claim nor did the O’Rorke board request it. Surprising?
At the meeting of February 10, 2014, Mr Norris advised that he had not had time to read the four – page F.O.I.L. policy so he requested vote be postponed. No time to read 4 pages, Mr Norris? Incredible! Mr Dellisanti tabled (put it on the agenda for vote at a later date) the vote on the F.O.I.L. Resolution until the February 24, 2014 Town Board Meeting to provide Mr. Norris ample time to read four pages. [Editor’s Note: We do admit that Mr Norris has in the past allegedly suffered some psychiatric or psychological problems but let’s hope Mr Norris managed to get through that incredible volume of reading before the vote! Just what we needed: another Denis Jordan!]
Please note: board member Van Etten identified that in 2013 ONLY NINE FOILS WERE SUBMITTED TO THE TOWN. [Editor’s Note: Geez, Ms Brooks, that’s mindboggling! How do you ever manage such a volume? Maybe you need another deputy clerk? Maybe more money? Nine F.O.I.L. requests in 2013 and you couldn’t manage. Poor kitten!]
RESOLUTION TO ESTABLISH HOURS OF THE TOWN CLERK’S OFFICE was presented to the Board by Supervisor Dellisanti on February 10, 2014
Although the newly hired town legal advisor confirmed the legality of the Resolution, boardmembers Benway, Norris, and town clerk Brooks disagreed that the town Board could require the office of the town clerk to be opened five days a week. The residents of this community have asked that the town clerk’s office be open for business five days a week. Benway, Norris, Brooks then advised that they had documentation that the town’s lawyer was incorrect. [Editor’s Note: Now Benway, Norris and Brooks are experts in the law? Our recent inquiries with the New York State Comptroller’s Office, the state agency that oversees town official operations, citing NYS Town Law, seem to disagree with their New Baltimore experts Benway, Norris and Brooks. What doe the New Baltimore Three Stooges know that the Comptroller’s examiners and lawyers don’t know?] They did not share this information with the lawyer or the supervisor prior to the meeting even though both were available. [Editor’s Note: Imagine that! They didn’t share the information! If they had shared it they would have been told to take a hike and take their foolishness with them!] Ms Brooks then advised that she would need MORE MONEY IN HER BUDGET TO DO THIS! Mrs. Brooks is the second highest paid elected official in the Town of New Baltimore. (Dennis Jordan is the highest paid town official making more than $52,000 and can’t even keep accurate figures or do a purchase order!) She is paid a salary of approximately $29,000+ a year, add on approximately $l0,000 in benefits and that comes to a cool $40,000 in taxpayer dollars. Mrs. Brooks has the authority to appoint one first deputy clerk and two deputies (currently Marjorie Loux and Diane Jordan) but the town board has the authority to approve any compensation of deputy clerks. [Editor’s Note: See this blog’s report on the NYS Town Law on this subject. Ms Brooks and her cronies have it all screwed up. They’re very confused.]. So why can’t the office be open to the public five days a week? It should also be noted that Ms. Brooks was present in the clerk’s office at New Baltimore Town Hall only eight days in January 2014! [Editor’s Note: Does anyone smell the stench of corruption and misuse of public office here? We do!]
RESOLUTION TO AUTHORIZE HIGHWAY SUPERINTENDENT TO PURCHASE DIESEL FUEL AND #2 HEATING OIL FOR HIGHWAY USE BY STATE CONTRACT FOR 2014
The newly elected board members, Dellisanti, VanEttan, Ruso discussed best practices with the Office of the State Comptroller, who recommended that passage of resolution in this matter was the best way to protect the financial interests of the community and the town. Mr Jordan, Town of New Baltimore Highway Superintendent, an elected public servant, provided his version of the usage numbers to be used in the Resolution. At the February 10, 2014 board meeting when Resolution was read and about to be voted on, Mr. Jordan DISAGREED WITH HIS OWN NUMBERS and did not want the board to vote on the resolution!!!!
Although the board should have proceeded, Mr. Dellisanti acknowledged Mr. Jordan’s confusion/concern about the numbers he previously provided, and tabled the resolution for the February 24, 2014, board meeting, thus providing Mr. Jordan more time to figure out how much fuel he used last year during the O’Rorke regime. [Editor’s Note: Now, dear readers, isn’t this all the evidence we need to show why it’s so important that purchase orders / requisitions, justifications for purchases, competitive bidding, and clear recordkeeping be made policy in Town Hall, just as Dellisanti, Ruso, and vanEtten are proposing?]
I have provided this information as a brief synopsis of the situation and as a report on the facts; this in no way should be interpreted to be a personal attack against any individual; it also does not reflect my personal opinion of our town’s public officials or employees. This information is provided for the sole purpose of identifying current and past actions or lack of action by elected officials, that was not and continues not to be in the best interest of this community, and in some cases is outright untruthful or even illegal.
It is time for all of our elected officials to work as a team, and those who refuse should go! It is their duty to negotiate, propose, resolve, implement, and adhere to policy legislated by the New Baltimore Town Board, while providing oversight and management, transparency and accountability that is fiscally sound and complies with the law.
Equally important is that each community member, young and old, regardless of political persuasion, play an integral part in this process of representative democratic governing. It is the community who must ensure that officials hear and correctly understand our needs and expectations, and are reminded that good government is for and by the people; this can be achieved only by continued open and honest inputs from the community and conscientious teamwork by our elected officials.
I hope that this letter has been informative and that at future New Baltimore town board meetings there is standing room only. You need to participate in all of our town board meetings.
A Resident of Town of New Baltimore