Harris resigns from Berne Town Board

Mathew Harris

Mathew Harris

BERNE — Councilman Mathew Harris has resigned from the Berne Town Board, effective Feb. 1, having completed a little over one year of his four-year term.

Harris, a GOP-backed Independence Party member who was elected in November 2019, stated during the town board’s Jan. 20 meeting that he was resigning because of professional and personal obligations that took away from his ability to act as a town councilman.

His resignation was accepted by a vote of 3-to-1. Joel Willsey, the board’s lone Democrat, abstained, and Supervisor Sean Lyons, a Republican, voted nay, saying that he was “sorry to lose” Harris.

Harris could not immediately be reached for further comment.

Harris moved to Berne five years ago. For a 2019 election profile, he told The Enterprise he was a Navy veteran, retired from his career with the Department of Defense as an electrical engineer, having worked with the Army Research Laboratory.

“I too am surprised by the resignation,” Lyons told The Enterprise in an email, “and I tried everything to persuade Mr. Harris to finish his term. I understand his family and professional obligations are his reasons and I can respect that.

“Mr. Harris worked extremely hard as Councilman and his efforts in both extensive research on local laws,” Lyons continued, “and his [information technology] experience most notably for our zoom meetings will be missed by this board and our residents.”

Harris notably discovered last year that Berne’s planning board, thought to have been established almost 50 years ago, was not actually codified in the town’s lawbook, apparently because the final paperwork was never submitted by the town to the New York State Department of State, which reposits local laws. The board formally established the planning board exactly as it existed last year.

The remaining four town board members will appoint someone to replace Harris, and the term of that appointment will last until the next election, in November, according to Section 42 of New York State Public Officers Law.

The board, minus Harris, is made up of Lyons; Willsey; Deputy Supervisor Dennis Palow, a Republican; and Bonnie Conklin, a GOP-backed Conservative.

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