Am I naïve to expect such oversight?

To the Editor:

As has been pointed out by many of my fellow Berne residents over many months and in many issues of The Enterprise, the Berne Town Board has been involved in a series of questionable and at times illegal  actions. It was the whole town’s good fortune that the planning board member who was summarily fired had the resources and temerity to sue the town and prevail.

But, for most residents who are affected by the town board’s wrongful actions, apart from writing in these columns and speaking out at town board meetings (although that is hard to do as well because those who elect to appear via Zoom are often silenced), what can we do to change the course?

We can work to elect a new board in 2021 and that will undoubtedly be a priority for many concerned and involved residents. But, in the meantime, during a pandemic and severe economic downturn, it would appear that a more immediate response is needed.

It should not fall upon individual residents to have to retain attorneys to get town government to respond and to act according to law. It is probable that many municipalities are running amok during a time when it is harder to give oversight.

Issues — such as lack of transparency in violation of the Open Meetings Law, unaccountable spending, targeting of opposition members, and illegal firings and hirings — should be investigated and addressed.

It is imperative that the county or state government provide a means through its many investigative and enforcement powers to respond. Am I naïve to expect such oversight? Why couldn’t there be an Ombudsman Office — one that invited citizens to identify local issues and if sufficiently serious to investigate and address.

Short of such intervention, these circumstances certainly underscore the late Holocaust survivor Lotte Scharfman’s quote: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

Helene G. Goldberger


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