Constructive criticism not tolerated in ‘Bashwingerville’

To the Editor:

Berne residents should demand truth and accuracy from elected officials, particularly when decisions regarding public safety are made. When considerations are openly contemplated and stated in a board meeting to justify votes, residents should be able to expect that these statements are true and the facts have been carefully considered.

When elected officials publish statements anywhere, Facebook, The Enterprise, or anywhere else, and those statements regarding highway-safety issues are not true and accurate, those elected officials should be held accountable and the information corrected by the board.

There have been numerous recent statements by the GOP leadership in Berne that do not appear to be true and I think they need to explain that. Also needing explanation is the fact that, despite my request, I was not provided with an agenda prior to the reorganizational meeting.

My votes would have been different had I had time to read this complex document at least a day or two before the meeting. I made a huge mistake regarding appointments. I put too much trust in the supervisor. I should have voted no across the board.

First, although he has me under threat for continuing to publish letters in The Enterprise, I question the apparent statements of the deputy supervisor in justifying the town board vote to derail a consultant evaluation of highway department practices that the 2019 board identified as being potentially dangerous.

The questionable practices are well documented in information packets provided to the board and the paper. The town was on its way to having the opinions of a licensed professional civil engineer advising best practices. But constructive criticism of the highway superintendent/GOP chairman is not tolerated in “Bashwingerville.” 

I cannot document these statements attributed to the deputy supervisor at the Jan. 8, 2020 meeting because, mysteriously, the recorder broke and there is no official town recording. Did someone tamper with the town clerk’s recorder? There are other recordings and I am told they do document the statements.

As I understand it, he claimed that the evaluation of these practices would cost the town “hundreds of thousands.” I don’t believe it would cost more than the taxpayer-funded 2019 misconduct investigations of three board members who happen to be Democrats.

These investigations were based on false allegations and were ridiculous, politically-motivated attacks. I would be interested in a cost comparison, but everything is a secret at the town hall these days.

Apparently the deputy supervisor also said that Cornell Local Roads Program somehow approves of these questionable practices. Can that be documented? It appears these statements were made to justify the town board vote to derail the 2019 action designed to protect the safety of the traveling public in Berne.

I question the validity of these statements because, as a board member, I am not aware of any estimate for the evaluation cost. Apparently it was nixed based on a cost not yet determined?

The supervisor and deputy supervisor were, according to past emails, to approach the Cornell Local Roads Program, but I was never made aware of any opinion being offered by that organization. So I think we need some validation and documentation that the reasons cited to justify the obstruction of this safety initiative are legitimate.

Otherwise this action appears to be deliberate, negligent maladministration to me. I think this negligent vote is solidly on the record now in the minutes and this is very low-hanging fruit for legal action against the town. 

Second, the supervisor recently documented in The Enterprise his opposition to engineering or consultant evaluation. He was not being truthful. He makes it appear that my published assumption that he is supportive of reaching out to an engineer to evaluate highway practices is unfounded. His comment: “…under no circumstances do I agree with or support anything Mr. Willsey states” (regarding his support for an evaluation).  

But I provided an email then that indicated he supported an evaluation. Here I refer to yet another more specific email from the supervisor to the board. This sentence and other content in this email are very supportive of the evaluation of highway practices:

“I would be in favor of having or hiring an engineering firm or consultant to work with Randy so together they can develop safe, sound procedures for our Highway Department’s town road repairs and shop maintenance and also be able to address safety concerns prior to them becoming an issue.”

It is very clearly reasonable to assume the supervisor would be supportive of an independent, objective evaluation in the interests of public safety. But he voted to derail this initiative for another reason. I think he was told to by the GOP chairman/superintendent of highways.

In his recent statement he also said: “I’m not sure what Mr. Willsey’s intent is…”  Let me clarify one more time for the supervisor: My intent is simply to address a serious public safety issue. At the expense of public safety, the supervisor will publicly say whatever the superintendent of highways/GOP chairman wants him to say. 

Finally, I am very disappointed that I voted in favor of the appointments. I apologize as I feel I let the town down with that vote. My vote would not have made a difference, but it was wrong.

Without time to read a complex document that was not provided to me prior to the meeting (and eyes that sometimes decide not to cooperate), I struggled and made some assumptions. I was aware of a health issue with a planning board member and assumed she had requested alternate status. I assumed a youth council member was not mentioned because he was perhaps filling in for a term that ends in a future year.

I had no opportunity to check. Then my biggest mistake was going along with the dog-control-officer appointment. I assumed this was a legitimate agreement that I was just not privy to as that is not unusual. I was very deliberately kept out of the loop.

The lesson here is to never trust these people. I sincerely apologize to anyone hurt by my vote.

Joel Willsey


Berne Town Board

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