Censure of Mr. Willsey is invalid

To the Editor:

I feel compelled to respond to Berne Superintendent Sean Lyons’s letter to the Enterprise editor of Aug. 13, 2020 [“Mr. Willsey’s feelings are not facts no matter how much of a tantrum he throws”].  It is intentionally misleading and, in large part, erroneous.

Mr. Lyons states that he has gone out of his way to ensure that all “executive sessions” are conducted in accordance with the Public Officers Law. He then recites the erroneous opinion given to the Republican majority by the town attorney that “executive sessions” may be called for “personnel matters.”

As amply reported by The Altamont Enterprise on Aug. 13 [“Committee on Open Government says: Berne executive sessions illegitimate”], that opinion is clearly wrong. The Committee On Open Government has stated repeatedly (and again as reported by this paper) that going into executive session merely by the invocation of “personnel matters” is illegal.

Mr. Lyons attempts to bolster the sagacity of Mr. [Javid] Afzali’s opinion by stating that he is a member of a well respected, high priced local law firm. While it is true that Mr. Afzali’s firm is well respected, his legal opinion regarding “executive sessions” is nonetheless still wrong. Although Mr. Afzali’s billing rate is $400 per hour, his legal opinion is still wrong.

Mr. Lyons next informs us that Mr. Afzali is a military officer. That’s nice to know but is wholly irrelevant and his legal opinion is still wrong.

Mr. Lyons characterizes Mr. [Joel] Willsey’s complaints that these illegal “executive sessions” were a subterfuge for a continuing series of abuse and harassment as “ad hominem” (now there’s a $400-per-hour word!) and hysterical.

Portions of these executive sessions were recorded on Zoom. Mr. Lyons, if you want the public to know the truth, then simply authorize a transcript of those recordings. While you’re at it, perhaps you can explain why only portions of these sessions were recorded and why Mr. Afzali was apparently designated to control those recordings.

You don’t need a lawyer to perform the duties of a technician — or maybe you do? To protect whom?

Mr. Willsey has been advised by Mr. Afzali not to publicly reveal the substance of these “executive sessions” in order to avoid further disciplinary action. Such advice is dubious and ominous in a democracy. “Executive sessions” are not meant to be both a cudgel and a sword.

Here’s the hysterical part: Any action taken as a result of an illegal “executive session” is in and of itself invalid. Mr. Lyons admits in his letter that, as a result of these illegal “executive sessions,” Mr. Willsey was subjected to the toothless gesture of  “censure.”

That censure is invalid.


Lawrence Zimmerman

East Berne


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