Unscrupulous, unethical behavior will now be spread countywide

To the Editor:

I am compelled to comment on last week’s report about Randy Bashwinger becoming GOP county chairman [“Seeking change, county GOP elects Bashwinger as chairman, DeGroff as secretary,” The Altamont Enterprise, Sept. 28, 2020].

This is bad news for the GOP, bad news for the town of Berne, and bad news for the county.

Mr. Bashwinger is among the most dishonest and unscrupulous people I’ve encountered.  Don’t be fooled by the Mr. Nice Guy - Eddy Haskell act.

His negligence is well documented and it puts the traveling public at unnecessary risk. His willful negligence regarding public safety  is not likely to improve considering his new distraction at the county level.

He already spends half his time at a political job instead of overseeing daily operations at the highway department. He spends the rest of his time spreading falsehoods on social media (in his official capacity).

There are a couple points in last week’s story  that need to be addressed.

First, it is suggested in the article that my issues with the illegal “erection” of billboard-sized election signs was based on the erection of signs on town roads.

While the billboards were erected on roads within the town, they were not erected on town highways.  Mr. Bashwinger and Mr. [Councilman Dennis] Palow erected these huge signs on the state highway right-of-way.

They were glad to admit this in emails to me when I suggested that the erection of these signs required a permit. With no permit or safety plan, this practice is in direct violation of New York State Highway Law.

The safety of the traveling public on a state highway was threatened as was the safety of the crew that erected and then later removed the billboards with no permit or safety plan.

Sight distance was impeded at the senior center and at the intersection of New York routes 85 and 443 as has been documented with global-positioning-system-located, date, and time-stamped photos submitted to The Enterprise.

So it is well documented that Mr. Bashwinger and Mr. Palow created long-term sight-distance hazards on state highways with the illegal erection of billboards on a state right-of-way.

Mr. Bashwinger’s operations are supposed to be consistent with New York Highway Law. As highway superintendent, he needs to be familiar with New York Highway Law. Any legitimate superintendent of highways knows that even a town highway department needs permits and safety plans to erect anything or work on a state right-of-way.

He should also be familiar with New York Vehicle and Traffic Law but, while he was consumed with the erection of illegal billboard-sized election signs, he knowingly left stop signs obscured with brush (in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law in my opinion).

He wrongly published claims that the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices does not apply to town operations. His own publications document that he is ignorant of the standards and regulations he should be following according to New York Vehicle and Traffic law.

That is how a member of the traveling public ended up in the bottom of a deep, unprotected excavation. His operations are simply hazardous due to his inattention and willful ignorance.

He also neglected to address documented missing stop signs during his erection of illegal signs in 2017. These violations are documented with global-positioning-system-located and dated photos that have also been provided to The Enterprise.

Second, Mr. Palow, who has harassed, threatened, and intimidated me since January 2018, filed a sexual-harassment complaint in 2018 because I referred to their illegal “erection” of election billboards in an email. He says, after he looked the word “erection” up in the dictionary, he became offended. 

Taxpayers paid for that ridiculous “investigation.” It was clear back then that I was not subject to town-employee-handbook regulations but that didn’t stop him from trying again in 2019 at taxpayer  expense.

Earlier in 2018, he complained that I pointed at him with my finger and he  considered that aggressive.   That complaint also went nowhere. The GOP plan was to find a complaint against me that would stick, because all the false workplace allegations they filed against me at [my workplace] the state’s Department of Transportation resulted in investigations, at taxpayer expense, that found their allegations were “without merit.”

That brings us to the “allegation that stuck” as noted in the Enterprise report last week. Mr. Palow’s allegation that I discriminated against him as a veteran was investigated by a lawyer hired without any town board discussion.

After the ridiculous sexual-harassment investigation, he was again hired to investigate my potential violation of regulations that do not apply to me as an elected representative. So why would an expensive investigation even be conducted? It is simply GOP harassment.

The investigation was specifically initiated to determine if I was in violation of the town-employee handbook. I was not in violation of the handbook and it does not apply.

Any superfluous opinions not related to violation of that handbook were simply provided by their lawyer to disparage me publicly at taxpayer expense. His opinions are not based in fact.

That secret, illegitimate investigation was based on nonsense. Town Councilman [Mathew] Harris threatened on April 29 that the Berne Town Board will be taking me to court to have me removed from office if it takes three years.

His threat is based on this most recent illegitimate investigation. He actually promised.

This illegitimate politically-motivated investigation did not stick. I was not declared guilty of anything.  I do not agree that this latest harassment (in the form of an illegitimate investigation at taxpayer expense) represents an investigation that “stuck.”

These people have had me under continuous harassment, intimidation threat, and investigation since the summer of 2017 when I announced my run for office. Represented here is the tip of the iceberg. This type of unscrupulous, unethical behavior will now be spread countywide.   

Joel Willsey 

Berne Town Board 

Editor’s note: The story has been revised for clarity.

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