Berne GOP champions 2nd Amendment while disregarding 1st Amendment

To the editor:

It should be clear now to any reasonably objective person that the Berne GOP organization that controls the town is run by right-wing extremists. They champion the 2nd Amendment while disregarding the 1st Amendment.

I was very specifically threatened in a town board meeting because I believe in transparency. I was instructed to stop writing letters to The Enterprise or I would suffer some unspecified consequences in a future meeting. The recording of that threat and transcription was provided to The Enterprise.

I had already received threatening emails and had been advised to move away in an executive session. I have endured numerous red-faced tirades in executive session that had nothing to do with the purpose of the session.

These sessions have been used as an unrecorded opportunity for politically motivated attacks. And the new town policies are designed to accommodate the continued misuse of executive sessions. Their actions are only transparent in the fact that it is very clear that they want complete control with no oversight.

With already ongoing investigations, I was openly threatened with yet another investigation in a recent meeting. And threatened at that time that there was even more to follow.

I have been under investigation based on various, ridiculous false allegations since midsummer 2017 when I announced I was running for town board. False allegations have been reported to the Department of Environmental Conservation police and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office by this GOP group that includes the superintendent of highways, the supervisor, and the deputy supervisor.

They opened state and federal investigations that were eventually closed as the allegations were proven to be “without merit.” The deputy superintendent’s absolutely ridiculous sexual-harassment complaint against me is apparently complete. But the supervisor has not bothered to inform me that it is complete or what the result is.

The Berne GOP is spending tax dollars for politically-motivated harassment designed to drive me from office. That is one of the only transparent things they are doing.

They have sent emails in fictitious names in their attempts to remove members of the planning board and recorded people without their knowledge to harass them. They share these recordings with their supporters. They think they are spies in a wartime effort.

The supervisor downplays his association with a right-wing extremist militia group while posing with his fingers in the configuration they use to identify themselves. He puts this photo proudly on his Facebook page.

These people deny everything, but the dots are very easy to connect if anyone bothers to pay attention.  Spying and sneaking around are acceptable in a war effort and these folks think they are at eternal war.

I was advised that these people were unhinged right-wing, radical extremists and they had an affinity for assault weapons late in the summer of 2017 when I was running for office. I, at first, wrote it off as political rhetoric.

In the fall, I found a bullet hole through an election sign for Kevin Crosier that was shot on my lawn. Then I received multiple angry threats in executive sessions and town board meetings from a militarily  trained soldier, the deputy supervisor. 

I am even more inclined to believe that these people are militia associated now. I am sure they are extremists. I’m sorry but I don’t feel safe in the same room with the deputy supervisor. My opinion may make a lot more sense to people now. I think their proposed 2nd Amendment sanctuary law should be subject to a public referendum. The senior center is going to be jammed with out-of-town flatlanders demanding it be passed. 

The town board has now cracked down on government transparency with ridiculous policies that prohibit the open discussion of town business. The supervisor can now make payments to anyone without oversight.

What could go wrong? The superintendent of highways was handed nearly $4,000 dollars that is supposedly his compensation for being appointed the solid-waste coordinator. This new position was not budgeted for and there was no public discussion of any job description. So it appears he needs to do nothing to collect the money.

Their new correspondence policies are nonsense in my opinion. These extremists take confidential emails to right-wing radio talk shows where the content is deliberately misrepresented to stoke hatred. The deputy supervisor once printed out numerous town board emails and took them to The Enterprise. Later he chastised me for just providing the dates, times, and senders of emails so The Enterprise could FOIL [request through the state’s Freedom Of Information Law] them.

It is well documented that the supervisor made secret backroom deals with the union. It’s well documented that he changed a health-insurance broker when no issues with his performance were ever received by the board or identified in any board meeting I am aware of. 

It turns out the original broker was critical of the GOP chairman and an opponent in school board politics.  Berne terminated him without documented cause and, according to an email, his replacement advised the supervisor to keep the change of brokers a secret (and he did)!

Does a broker gain financially from this agreement that was handed to him without the knowledge of the board? The board was not informed about what the supervisor was up to for the past two years and agreements were made in the dark for very suspicious reasons.

The Berne GOP leadership is trampling the 1st Amendment and pulling town government into the shadows and behind closed doors with these ridiculous new policies. I think all town board emails should be available to the public for review with a couple of exceptions.

This business is being conducted in the dark. And is there any question that these people have created a hostile and threatening environment?

Now they remove people from appointed and volunteer positions without cause and appoint a convicted felon as planning board chair, saying that guy represents the direction they are headed with the town? It is so ridiculous it is hard to fathom.

I sincerely apologize for the very inconsiderate and potentially illegal treatment of our residents and neighbors who stepped forward to serve the town only to be slapped in the face by these power-hungry extremists.

Joel Willsey


Berne Town Board


Editor’s note: Berne Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger, who is also the town’s Republican Party chairman, responded in an email about his role managing solid waste, “I handle most of it and have for 5 years and never received a penny from it and now the position came up and who better to handle it [than] the Highway Superintendent since we do 90-95 percent of it. As far as I know money has always been allocated to the position,” he stated, referencing the former supervisor, Kevin Crosier, and his appointment of Scott Green and also Jeff Alexander to the post. “I believe it was $3500 or $3600 not sure,” he said of the former pay.

Bashwinger also wrote that the town’s relationship with its former broker, Jaeger Flynn & Associates, which employs agency partner Matthew Tedeschi, is now a non-issue. Both Bashwinger and Tedeschi are members of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board.

“As far as the medical issue we have moved past this and the current plan works good for us and also for my guys,” Bashwinger wrote, referencing town highway workers. “Not a lot to bring up on this at all. Mr Tedeschi and I both have discussed and moved on and are fine with it as far as I know.”

Tedeschi declined to comment on the matter.

Berne Supervisor Sean Lyons responded to Joel Willsey’s assertions on the solid-waste position and on the change in insurance brokers, stating in an email, “In both cases I acted within the duties of Supervisor. Both cases were administrative actions and not legislative actions. (no laws were changed, and no funds were appropriated).”

According to emails supplied to The Enterprise, Jaeger & Flynn Associates were notified by MVP Healthcare that the town of Berne was changing its Broker of Record, effective Nov. 1, 2018.

In a Nov. 4, 2018 email, Tedeschi wrote to the town board, “I received the email … from MVP indicating that you are replacing Jaeger & Flynn as your Broker of Record. I am concerned as to why you made that decision. I have been reaching out over the last month to sit and review the 2018 renewal and options … I have not received any communication back from the town, so this was truly a shock to me. I was not aware of any issues that the town had with me or Jaeger and Flynn. It was also really disappointing to receive the notice from MVP and not from the town as we have worked together for the last 20 years.”

In an email sent to members of the town board, to the town clerk, and to the town lawyer on Nov. 7, 2018, Supervisor Sean Lyons wrote, “I met with Mr. Tedeschi a short time ago, and yes, Jaeger & Flynn are being replaced as the [broker of record] for the town employee health care administration, Marshall & Sterling will take over as the Broker of Record 12/1/18.

“I expressed my regrets to Mr. Tedeschi regarding how he was informed,” Lyons continued in the email, “that I did not approve of this and had every intention to notify him of the switch professionally. A glitch in the MVP system sent out notifications without approvals.

“We … had been advised by Marshall & Sterling to Not notify Jaeger, or anyone else regarding this change as to prevent any lapse in coverage until they gave us the go ahead that all approvals were granted and the change could occur.”

Nearly a year earlier, on Jan. 5, 2018, Tedeschi addressed the town board about concerns with Bashwinger in an email.

“I wanted to share a situation with you and the town regarding an issue that arose with Mr. Bashwinger on 12/28,” Tedeschi wrote. “I tried to reach out to Mr. Bashwinger directly and left 2 messages for him to call me but I have not received a call back from him yet. I received an email from a [Jaeger & Flynn Associates] employee whom he had spoken with who expressed her concern and was ultimately very upset that Mr. Bashwinger was so rude to one of her employees. Despite the effort to help Mr. Bashwinger and explain the process for the HRA plan and what expenses were eligible he continually said he can’t wait for the town to fire JFA and get a new broker because the plan that he has is terrible and JFA is terrible and then hung up on the employee. (I am paraphrasing the extent of the conversation as it would not be fair to try to recount the entire exchange)”

Bashwinger responded to these allegations in an email, saying, “As usual this is normal stuff from the past and I asked for them to provide a voice recording since the message Jaeger and Flynn says they record for quality control. I say I was very very polite and even joked with the lady. That is all I have to say we have moved on.” 

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