Joel is using The Enterprise as his sounding board to attack Randy

To the Editor:

I must object to the perspective that Councilman Joel Willsey and his brother-in-law Gerard Chartier are painting about the actions of the elected officials in Berne [“Let’s all keep an eye on what happens next,” letter to the editor by Gerard Chartier, The Altamont Enterprise, Jan. 8, 2020; “Berne GOP champions 2nd Amendment while disregarding 1st Amendment,” letter to the editor by Joel Willsey, The Altamont Enterprise, Jan. 14, 2020].

Joel is angry at Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger because he lives on Stage Road, a loop which ends on Route 443 and the highway superintendent wanted to make the end closer to Willsey’s home a “Closed – Winter Road” because it is steep and enters Route 443 just over the crest of a hill.

This conflict is about public safety, not picking on Joel [“Stage Road closure stirs debate at town meeting,” The Altamont Enterprise, March 14, 2017].

The state road has a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, making stopping by a westbound vehicle if a vehicle comes out of the road a problem. It is during snow-clearing operations on the side road that it is truly dangerous.

That result is the 10-ton plow truck, loaded with several more tons of sand and a massive plow, popping out into the traffic lanes, which can be in front of (or into) a car, a fuel oil truck, an 18-wheel semi-truck or a school bus.

The obvious solution would be to attack the road from Route 443, but the plow truck cannot make the turn with enough momentum to move the snow while climbing the slope. When Mr. Bashwinger notified Mr. Willsey of the change, Joel took it as a personal attack on him. 

He is unwilling to put the safety of anyone using the highway over the need to use the other end of his road, less than a half-mile away. This was the fuse that started Joel’s blood feud and everything that has happened since is caused by his intractability.

Joel was subsequently elected to the Berne Town Board (in a contested election by one vote, which was “found” after the vote was already totaled) and is using that position to get even with Randy [“Judge rules: open two ballots, Willsey wins by one vote,” The Altamont Enterprise, Nov. 30, 2017].

Joel is using The Enterprise as his sounding board to attack Randy and, since Randy is the Republican chairman, the Republicans on the town board. He has instituted investigations, including into the “failure” of the highway department when a car passed “Road Closed” signs and drove into a trench that was excavated for a new culvert [“Minivan upended: Who’s at fault?” The Altamont Enterprise, Aug. 20, 2019].

He said he feared for his safety when, after being elected to the board, Dennis Palow suggested that Joel’s actions were excessive and that they could bring trouble to him. Joel charged that had been threatened with physical harm [“Due to ‘safety and security concerns’ Berne Town Board meeting nixed,” The Altamont Enterprise, Aug. 15, 2019], but the truth is that it meant that Joel’s attacks could cost him his job with the state (it did) and his being removed from the board for cause after a hearing.

Palow is a military veteran with 20 years’ experience, but the first order of military training is discipline.  He’s not the one who’s out of control [“Palow files complaint, wants Willsey removed from town board,” The Altamont Enterprise, Oct. 24, 2019].

Like Mr. Chartier, I served the town for many years on the zoning board of appeals. I volunteered after I had been here for several years to see how a small town operated after retiring from the New York City Fire Department, where I was a communications manager in charge of Staten Island’s operations.

Mr. Chartier said, “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.”

Unlike Gerard, the first thing I was asked was whether I was a registered Democrat. I was, and had been, a Kennedy Democrat since 1968.

I, too, never conducted zoning-board business outside of the meetings, unlike Willsey. I ran for a seat on the town board as a Republican because the Democrats occupied every seat.

This occurred after Mr. Crosier refused to protect and defend the Bill of Rights when Governor [Andrew] Cuomo passed the SAFE [Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement] Act, which ignored the 2nd Amendment, despite having several hundred voters, (residents, hunters, and sportsmen) show up at the Berne Town Board meeting to express their dissatisfaction with his position [“Berne and Knox see limits in town powers, As citizens push boards for resolutions to repeal the state’s SAFE Act,” The Altamont Enterprise, May 1, 2013].

Now that I have resigned from the zoning board, due to health considerations, I am no longer constrained from revealing the inner workings that violate the rights of the people of Berne. I attended numerous formal training sessions, mandated by the New York State Department of State, and the Association of Towns of the State of New York to learn how to execute my duties, but have seen that the zoning board and the other boards ignore those rules while going off in their own direction.

The greatest fault is that permits and variances are often denied based on feelings, rather than evidence.  Our semi-judicial hearings make decisions based on statements in reports of subordinate boards like “it might,” or “it could.”

That’s not how the system is supposed to operate. The outcome should be based on pertinent facts. That a petitioner’s son and friends blew up an amphibian should never delay the process for seven years.

So far as being threatened at town board meetings by board members, I thought that was a normal part of the discourse here. I grew up in the Bronx, where posturing is part of survival.

In my case, I was told by two different board members that I would get my ass kicked in the parking lot on three occurrences in front of the other four members (and many spectators). This was under the former administration and the supervisor simply shrugged when asked if he heard what was said.

It happened when I politely disagreed with them about positions they supported during the meetings. I was surprised at their inability to deal with someone who disputed their stance without making threats.  No one suggested using the weapons detector or hiring deputies to make me feel safe.

As reported by a former highway superintendent, the need to close the end of Stage Road (in winter) has been an issue for many years, long before Mr. Bashwinger was elected, but it took a recent close call to prompt the move to act on it.

It’s high time Mr. Willsey’s antics be curtailed by conducting a hearing and removing him from the board for bringing discredit to the town. There’s absolutely no reason that his personal feud with the highway department should be permitted to drag the town of Berne and the town board through the mud.

The Altamont Enterprise’s own bias has allowed it to be suckered into portraying the matter as a case of party politics. Maybe they should try to stop following the lead of the media and partisans conducting the impeachment farce being played out in Washington.

The American people are interested in facts and the truth, not fantasies, lies, and exaggeration. The people of Berne deserve the same. 

Rick Otto


Editor’s note: Rick Otto has in the past run on the Republican ticket for town board and town judge.

At last July’s Berne Town Board meeting, Deputy Supervisor Dennis Palow shouted to Councilman Joel Willsey, “If you keep talking crap about me, Joel, I’ve got something for you.” The “crap” Palow was referencing were letters from Willsey to the Enterprise editor. “When’s this going to happen?” Willsey asked Palow. “It’s going to happen right here,” Palow replied.

Documents supplied by Willsey show that he was not fired by the state’s Department of Transportation. He retired in July 2019.

Rick Otto's picture
Rick Otto
Joined: 09/04/2014 - 10:52
Joel is using The Enterprise . . .

My comment, " it meant that Joel’s attacks could cost him his job with the state (it did) " CANNOT be interpreted that he was fired for his indiscretions. If government agencies institute administrative charges they can offer 'deals' where they provide a choice between termination with a loss of retirement and benefits or to retire. According to the editor, Melissa Hale-Spencer, Willsey provided documents which indicated that he did retire. with no mention of the terms of his separation.
I can only hope that he is able to put his petulance behind him and enjoy his retirement.

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