Let’s all keep an eye on what happens next

To the Editor:

When I read the online coverage of the Berne reorganizational meeting on January first [“New Berne board makes sweeping changes”], I was horrified, yes horrified, at the direction the new board is taking our town government.

Let me focus on the Berne Planning Board, as this is one area I can speak to with some authority. I served on Berne’s planning board for approximately 28 years, and was chairman for several years. I ultimately resigned at the end of my term, because of travel and other interests.

During that time, I served under several supervisors and many planning board members, some who later were elected to the town council.

It truly was a “citizen” board, with varied backgrounds and skills: Dentist, beekeeper, pharmacist, engineer, for example.

From my perspective, it was an honor to be nominated, and a responsibility I took very seriously. There was a lot to learn, and the board members shared their experience and I gained confidence in application of the town codes and precedents from prior applications and decisions. Formal training by the New York State Department of State, and the Association of Towns of the State of New York was essential, long before it was made a requirement.

So now we have Mr. [Thomas] Spargo, a convicted and disgraced New York State Supreme Court Justice appointed as chair. And, his appointment displaces a duly appointed member; demoted to alternate member without hearing or cause as set forth in New York State Town Law Section 271. Whether this is a violation of law is uncertain.

This does not bode well for our town. I am anticipating other such moves to install conservative yes men or women to other boards. Even a weakening of town codes and favoritism to friends.

Let’s be clear about one thing: In my time on the planning board, I never was asked about my party affiliation, and I never conducted town business outside of the meeting room. No favors were given.

When a person approached us about a permit or subdivision, our review was based solely on what was placed before us. Sometimes a citizen would complain, but often they had not done their homework and had missing information. We still patiently worked with them to get through the process.

Will Mr. Spargo live up to the standards that I thought essential to being the chairman of the planning board? I don’t know. Time will tell.

Voting for these town board candidates was one thing, but did voters understand how it would impact other aspects of town government? Maybe not. Let’s all keep an eye on what happens next. It’s in our best interest.

Gerard Chartier


Editor’s note: Gerard Chartier is Berne Councilman Joel Willsey’s brother-in-law. Chartier stresses that this letter is written from his own perspective.

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