Vicious lies are meant to harm Mr. Willsey’s reputation built on a deep foundation of community service

To the Editor:

The smear campaign targeting Joel Willsey is an ugly attempt to bully him into resigning from the Berne Town Board. The scheme is based on distorted facts, untruths, and misinformation. The other four members of the Town Board would have you believe Mr. Willsey is a sexual predator who disdains veterans and contributes little to our community.

This is utter nonsense. Taxpayer resources are being wasted trying to slander a person who has devoted his life to public service. Here is what you should know about Mr. Willsey; he:

— Served as a Berne Library trustee for four years;

— Served as chairman of the Library Building Design Committee;

— Chaired the Solid Waste Advisory Committee for several years;

— Was Recycling Coordinator for two years;

— Developed the preliminary design for the current transfer station;

— Created the preliminary rendering for the proposed library to be sited at the town park;

— Was the Designer of Record for state Department of Transportation projects, including the Dunn Memorial Bridge rehabilitation, the new Malta Avenue bridges over the Northway, the Exit 15 (Wilton) rehabilitation, and many other projects too numerous to mention;

— Alerted the DOT to the Canaday Hill bridge-slide into Fox Creek;

— Represented the town of Berne in the ANSWERS [Albany New York Solid Waste Energy Recovery System] Consortium for two years;

— Reviewed the ANSWERS Solid Waste Management Plan and Environmental Impact study;

— Worked with the State Office for Historical Preservation to determine if the town park is an archeologically significant site;

— Conducted topographic surveys of the town park;

— Enlisted the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the town park;

— Reviewed numerous plans for towns, counties, and cities for their local projects;

— Reviewed state and interstate projects: highways, bridges, walls, etc.;

— Worked for the Department of Transportation for 36 years;

— Worked in a Civil Engineer I position from 1993 to 2017 with the DOT; and

— Worked as an Assistant Engineer his last two years before retirement.

The town and community are important to Mr. Willsey who was born to one of Berne’s founding families. His work on the town’s behalf attests to his commitment to it. The accusations manufactured against him stand in stark contrast to reality.

Consider the absurd charge of sexual harassment:

— Mr. Willsey used the word “erection” when describing the installation of signs by Berne’s highway superintendent without the permits or safety plans mandated by state law;

— Mr. [Deputy Supervisor Dennis] Palow accused Mr. Willsey of sexual harassment for using the word “erection” in that description;

— Mr. [Supervisor Sean] Lyons hired an outside law firm to investigate Mr. Palow’s accusation. The law firm found no basis for the charge. This was a complete waste of taxpayer funds, used in place of common sense.

Consider, too, Mr Palow’s charge that Mr. Willsey is anti-veteran:

— Mr. Willsey sent Mr. Lyons, as town supervisor, a confidential email asking for help understanding and ameliorating Mr. Palow’s aggressive / threatening behavior in town board meetings, a concern shared by others on the board;

— Mr. Lyons shared the confidential email with a conservative radio-show host, who mischaracterized its contents as a declaration that Mr. Willsey felt all veterans were mass killers. Transcripts of that email prove this is blatantly untrue;

— Mr. Palow, at the next town board meeting, read a self-aggrandizing statement that served to characterize him as a victim to Mr. Willsey’s purported words;

— Mr. Palow falsely accused Mr. Willsey of publicizing his PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] status, a HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ]-protected medical record, to which Mr. Willsey did not have access or knowledge.

The current members of the town board are attempting to sully Mr. Willsey’s reputation and standing within the community, a reputation built on a deep foundation of community service. Their vicious lies and distortions are meant to harm, demean, and devalue him as a respected member of our community.

Who benefits from such nastiness? Does Berne need this kind of viciousness? Does it further town business? Certainly not.

The spurious accusations and investigations have wasted taxpayer money, and created an environment antithetical to good government.

These are shameful acts, undertaken to achieve a political goal. Anyone with a sense of decency would recognize that these reprehensible attacks are a disservice to the town, as well as to a public servant who has contributed so much to our taxpayers’ well-being.

The present administration’s focus is on disparaging, rather than enhancing, the good work of those who’ve contributed so much to our town. Rather than informing themselves, they make false accusations, eliminate citizen boards, and hamper taxpayer involvement in Berne’s government.

They put politics above the best interest of the town, costing taxpayers’ money in the process. This is not what anyone wants, and certainly not what our citizens voted for. Rome burns while they fiddle.

It’s time this town board sets the nonsense aside and starts governing. It is time to get the planning and zoning board of appeals up and running. It is time to officially repeal Motion 18 and reinstate the Conservation and Switzkill Farm boards so they can continue their productive work.

It is time to treat all our citizens, volunteers, committee people, and Mr. Willsey, with the respect they deserve.

Karen Schimmer


Editor’s note: Karen Schimmer, a Democrat, served on the Berne Town Board but did not seek re-election last november.

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