When you turn on the light, the cockroaches scatter

To the Editor:

Last year, I requested an agenda for the Jan. 1 organizational meeting and my request was denied. I was advised it was just procedure and there was no need for an agenda.

In reality, there were numerous controversial motions made and these motions were coordinated to be made by people who were not sworn members of the board at the time the agenda was drafted. As a sworn member of the board, and elected representative of the people, I was very deliberately obstructed from decisions for the town’s 2020 organization.

I was given the choice of being an obstructionist myself or voting for all appointments at once. All the appointments were proposed in secret by just two sworn board members representing the Berne GOP, Dennis Palow and Sean Lyons.

Last year, a number of patronage jobs, illegal in my opinion, were made to fill tax paid positions with no board discussion and without due process:

The Berne GOP chairman was appointed to a superfluous patronage job, created specifically for him, without due process. There was no advertisement for this position, there were no résumés to review, there is no job description, no performance expectations and there was no competition for the position.

This proposed appointment was a GOP decision by Mr. Palow and Mr. Lyons. The board was not notified or consulted. It is a reward of nearly $4,000 for the GOP chairman’s relentless unethical behavior in his efforts to garner votes and line up candidates for the GOP.

The dog-control officer was not even notified that she was being replaced. There was no dismissal process whatsoever. The new appointee did not submit a résumé to the board, and he was not interviewed by the board. There was no advertisement that this position was open and no competition. This proposed appointment was a GOP patronage decision by Mr. Palow and Mr. Lyons. The board was not notified or consulted.

The code-enforcement officer was appointed with no résumé submitted to the board, no interviews, and no open competition. The decision to appoint was again not part of a town board discussion. This was a GOP decision by Mr. Palow and Mr. Lyons.

It appears, according to state listings and research by The Altamont Enterprise, that this code-enforcement officer was not certified and did not complete the training necessary since. He has been used as a political tool and has demonstrated that he does not understand fundamental aspects of code enforcement. His appointment last year was pure patronage. The integrity of the code-enforcement officer position has been irreparably damaged.

Emily Vincent was removed as a voting member of the planning board without due process and no board discussion or notification. That replacement appointee was a convicted felon with no planning board experience. If I heard correctly in the court action that resulted, the town insinuated that Ms. Vincent had been removed based on a board evaluation or discussion. The board was not involved in any such evaluation or discussion, just Palow and Lyons.

Emily Vincent was previously attacked in a town board meeting in a documented, choreographed attack by the GOP designed to … falsely state that she was in violation of the code, and falsely accuse her of failing to pay a fee. This was a coordinated attack to intimidate her and an intern on her farm into stepping down from planning board positions.

The code-enforcement officer was complicit in that attack, that clearly displayed his ignorance of the code and Ag & Markets law. He presented a file to document his part in the attack. It includes undated notes presented to the board as contemporaneous. They appear hastily prepared for the purposes of this public attack.

This very public, orchestrated attack on her integrity was a GOP decision by Mr. Palow and Mr. Lyons alone. The board was not notified or consulted about any failure to pay a fee or obtain a permit prior to the attack, which took place in an open meeting.

This attack was shortly after Ms. Vincent hosted a meet and greet for Angelo Santabarbara at her farm. This was an obvious example of political retribution choreographed by a group of unscrupulous politicians. In my opinion, it was the first attempt to illegally manipulate the planning board membership to accommodate the appointment of a convicted felon.

Tim Doherty was removed from the Youth Council also based on a board evaluation that did not take place. He was informed that his removal was based on such a board evaluation. This proposed removal was a GOP decision by Mr. Palow and Mr. Lyons alone.

The board was not notified or consulted. I objected in an email when Mr. Lyons proposed that he inform Mr. Doherty that his removal was based on a board evaluation as this was a lie. Mr. Palow informed me, also by email, that, just because I was not included in the evaluation, doesn’t mean the board didn't make a decision without me.

Since then, a town attorney was appointed with no process and no board discussion. I saw no résumés and was not advised of any interviews. This attorney has turned out to be a very, very aggressive partisan.

This year, I was scheduled to interview appointees via Zoom. The day of the interviews, I was advised by Mr. Palow and Mr. Lyons that Zoom interviews could not take place as personal information would be exposed. They informed me that, in order to take part in the teleconference interviews, I would have to present (during a raging pandemic). I asked a human resources officer about this as did others and we were informed that Zoom interviews are common practice.

I have endeavored to eliminate all situations where Mr. Palow and Mr. Lyons are not in an unrecorded situation. When you turn on the light, the cockroaches scatter. There were no lights on at the recent interviews and Mr. Palow once again inappropriately attacked Emily Vincent at her interview. Palow and Lyons need to step down.

Joel Willsey

Berne Town Board

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