Westerlo’s lawyer and building inspector both set to step down

Enterprise file photo — Marcello Iaia
Aline Galgay will retire at the end of this year from her position as Westerlo’s town attorney.

WESTERLO — Westerlo is looking for a new town lawyer and new building inspector for the new year.

Aline Galgay, who as been the town attorney for 21 years, and Edwin Lawson, who has been the building inspector for 23 years, are both stepping down. Lawson is also currently serving as deputy supervisor.

Supervisor Richard Rapp did not return repeated calls from The Enterprise over the last week. Someone who answered at the town hall office on Monday said his phone was off the hook and he wasn’t in the building.

Westerlo Councilman Richard Filkins said that the town board discussed in a workshop meeting Tuesday night advertising for a town attorney and building inspector.

Filkins said that applications could be submitted as late as Jan. 21, with the board filling the posts at its Feb. 3 meeting. Filkins said that Rapp would be choosing a new deputy supervisor.

Lawson currently is serving as the acting code enforcement officer in Rensselaerville after the previous code enforcement officer, Mark Overbaugh resigned. John Dolce, the deputy supervisor for the town of Rensselaerville, said  Lawson is one of 10 candidates for the permanent post; so is Jeffry Pine, an assessor in Rensselaerville. Lawson could not be reached for comment.

Dolce said the appointment would be discussed further at a Dec. 27 town board meeting, and that an appointment would be made at the board’s Jan. 2 reorganizational meeting.

Lawson was to be paid $13,500 this year for his role as code enforcement officer in Westerlo and $6,000 for his role as zoning administrator, according to minutes from Westerlo’s 2018 organizational meeting. In Rensselaerville, according to minutes for the town’s organizational meeting this year, the building and zoning officer was to be paid $14,930.

 

Enterprise file photo — Marcello Iaia
Edwin Lawson, the town’s code enforcement officer, speaks to Westerlo residents in the fall of 2014 about a proposed project to repair the highway garage. Lawson is stepping down from his post as code enforcement officer and deputy supervisor in Westerlo.

 

Filkins said that Lawson has served as code enforcement officer for 23 years. During his tenure, he has overseen resolutions such as a new solar law in town and acted as a guide for residents who had questions. Lawson also has begun to sit alongside board members at meetings and offer comments and reports such as on town infrastructure.

Galgay started her stint as town attorney in January 1998. Galgay is to be paid $20,000 this year, according to minutes from the town’s 2018 organizational meeting. She declined to have comments from an Enterprise interview on her retirement used for this story.

Galgay has her own law practice in Westerlo, started in 1997, according to her LinkedIn profile, which also says she earned a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame in 1985 and a law degree from Seton Hall in 1988. She then worked for six years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, followed by three years as a deputy counsel for the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.

In 2006, complaints against Galgay that had been simmering among some Westerlo residents came to a head when Citizens Against the Reappointment of the Town Attorney, led by Michael Sikule and Eugene McGrath, presented a proposition calling for the town to seek outside counsel, citing conflict of interest.

The group also sent a letter to the Enterprise editor, “Who elected the town attorney,” written by Sikule and McGrath, which said, “It seems obvious from attending any meeting town, planning, or zoning that it is the town attorney who seems to be doing all the talking, interrupting elected and appointed officials at will, correcting them without any sense of protocol or respect to the board chairperson, making comments directly to the audience without having them evaluated by the chairperson, and addressing applicant attorneys without deference to the chairperson.”

The town board, however, stood behind her and she kept her appointed post.

Galgay defended herself at the time, saying that her role is to inform the board members and be as professional as possible. “I don’t vote,” Galgay said, and added, “I like to dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s.”

She also said of the difficult role of town attorney, “It doesn’t matter what you do, someone is always out to get you.”

Rapp, in 2006, said the role of a town attorney is “to advise the board on legal matters, which she does.” Rapp added that Galgay helped with legal matters throughout the formation and completion of the town’s first water district. “She did a good job,” he said. Rapp said that, throughout the project, there was more legal work than he’d expected.

Galgay said at the time, “I did the legal work for the water district with no additional stipends … It doesn’t matter whether I am on the phone for six hours or six minutes,” Galgay said then. “I don’t get anything extra.”

Asked if her position as the town attorney and her practice within the town caused a conflict of interest, Galgay said in 2006 she routinely doesn’t accept cases that could be brought before the town’s justices, the planning board, or the zoning board.

Galgay subsequently stopped attending board meetings and sitting at the board table, as she had previously.

In 2013, when some residents requested Galgay’s presence at meetings, then-Councilman William Bichteman said, “The town attorney’s not an elected official,” adding that the town board asked Galgay not to attend for the sake of having more productive meetings.Prior to 2012, Galgay attended regular town board meetings and frequently spoke. Bichteman said residents questioned her instead of board members. “You expect her to represent the town,” Bichteman said to the gallery. “All you hear is that she’s running things. You can’t have both.”

If the town’s attorney isn’t present during board meetings, resident Leonard Laub asked in 2013, how can she advise the board of the legal consequences created by its decisions during meetings?

“If we were concerned that we were changing the legality of it,” Councilman Anthony Sherman said, responding to Laub, “we would hold open the public hearing and ask for a meeting with the town attorney.”

Planning board member Edwin Stevens said in 2013 he preferred meetings without Galgay. “I didn’t need somebody to try to mediate what I had to say to the board,” said Stevens.

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