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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 17, 2011

Backstage politics lead Dem board to appoint two from other parties

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A unanimous town-board vote on Tuesday to fill two vacancies on the Board of Assessment Review belies the political maneuvering that led to the compromise.

The appointed review board members hear citizens’ grievances on town-set property values; many complaints are anticipated on Grievance Day this May because of the faltering economy. Members are paid $500 annually.

Before the two vacancies, the review board consisted of four Democrats and one Conservative. The town board appointed Melissa Kline, a member of the Independence Party, to the full five-year term, and Republican Kevin Clancy to the two-year term, so the board will now have three Democrats, one Republican, and one member of the Independence Party.

Republican Councilman Warren Redlich says Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion withheld information that the posts were open.

Redlich said he believes Runion purposely waited until the last minute to add appointments to Tuesday’s town board meeting agenda, so that the Republican minority on the board — Redlich and fellow Councilman Mark Grimm — would not have a chance to make recommendations.

Runion initially told The Enterprise that he had not known about the open positions in time to put them on the agenda he sent out on Friday morning. The supervisor sent an amended agenda to board members on Monday, the day before the meeting, and included the appointment of two members to the Board of Assessment and Review.

However, Redlich told The Enterprise that Runion’s plan backfired, because Redlich found out about the open positions from his party chairman over a week before the supervisor notified the board members. Redlich submitted two recommendations for the appointments — Republicans Clancy and David Ardman — just hours after Runion sent out the notification.

“I think there was some behind-the-scenes manipulation going on,” said Redlich, stating that he heard of the open positions at a meeting with the chairman of Guilderland’s Republican Committee, Matthew Nelligan.

Redlich provided The Enterprise with e-mails of a conversation between himself, Nelligan, and Grimm, in which Nelligan said he had spoken to Runion about Clancy and Ardman, and that Runion had agreed to back them as nominees.

Nelligan wrote in his e-mail, dated March 9, that Runion suggested the Republican Party “raise the issue” and bring forward its candidates.

“I can’t see where we have anything to lose by raising these appointments and making the motion to accept them, as we currently have no one on that board, and, if Runion screws us, the only one to blame would be him,” said Nelligan in the e-mail.

Nelligan attached résumés for Clancy and Ardman to his e-mail, and asked Redlich to put them forward.

When The Enterprise asked Runion yesterday if he had notified Nelligan of the vacancies on the Board of Assessment Review before he told town board members, he said he had solicited Nelligan for résumés,

“I did know about it, but I didn’t know we were going to have to vote on it so soon,” Runion said. He said the town assessor, John Macejka, notified him that a mandatory training session for Board of Assessment Review members would be held the first week in April, and therefore he had to scramble to get the item on the agenda on Tuesday. Macejka confirmed this for The Enterprise yesterday.

“When there are political vacancies, you can’t go to Redlich and Grimm because you just can’t communicate with them,” Runion said yesterday. He maintained that he honored his word to Nelligan, backing Clancy and Ardman, by recommending Clancy for the two-year term and appointing Ardman as a one-year alternate.

Nelligan told The Enterprise yesterday that it is “well documented” that Runion has issues with councilmen Redlich and Grimm. Nelligan said that, when Runion “reached out” to him about upcoming openings, he was willing to recommend candidates.

“I was trying to help along the process, not to slight Mr. Redlich or Mr. Grimm,” said Nelligan. “I wanted to put forth qualified people to fill the vacancy.”

He concluded, “On an issue as important as assessment, it’s important to have representation on all sides. These are highly qualified people,” he said of Clancy and Ardman.

Unanimous vote

At the town board meeting on Tuesday, Redlich made a motion to appoint Clancy and Ardman. Grimm seconded the motion. Runion said there were two other individuals to consider for appointment — Kline and Democrat William Meehan.

Democratic Councilman Paul Pastore asked if the board could discuss all four candidates, and decide who to appoint for each term, before voting; he also asked if the board should establish two alternates in addition to filling the two open positions.

Redlich and Grimm wanted to vote on the motion, which would establish Clancy, a Realtor, in the five-year term, and Ardman in the two-year term.

The motion did not pass; Grimm and Redlich voted in favor, Democrat Patricia Slavick voted in opposition, and Runion and Pastore abstained.

Runion then made a motion to appoint Kline to the five-year position, Clancy to the two-year position, and Ardman and Meehan as one-year alternates. The motion passed with a unanimous vote, but Redlich and Grimm commented that they voted in favor of Runion’s motion because they felt they had no other choice, since they make up the minority on the board.

“These are political appointments, and normally political appointments go to the party that has the majority; they got three Democrats to vote in Republicans, so I think that’s pretty good,” said Runion yesterday. He said his goal was to try to create a bi-partisan grievance process.

“In the 200 years that Republicans were in the majority, there was not one Democrat on that board,” said Runion. He said he thought Redlich and Grimm were angry because they did not get their original motion, to appoint Clancy to the five-year term and Ardman to the two-year term, to pass.

“That is one of the major drawbacks to working with those two — they are unwilling to compromise on any issue, and if they don’t get what they want, they go on the attack,” Runion said.

“I was willing to compromise, and I did compromise by agreeing to the one-year appointments,” Redlich concluded. “Honestly, this board is not that important, and I do have to give credit for appointing the Republicans at all.”

Kline and Clancy will attend the board member training in April and hear assessment grievances on May 24.

“I think with these two, it’s just a game,” said Runion, referring to Redlich and Grimm. “If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past couple of years, it’s that they are crazy.”

—        Melissa Hale-Spencer contributed comments from Matthew Nelligan to this story.

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