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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 5, 2012

Power shifts
New lawyer for Rensselaerville

RENSSELAERVILLE — When the town held its re-organizational meeting on New Year’s Day, it was the first time since 2007 that Democrats, which make up the majority in town, did not dominate the town board.

Margaret Sedlmeir, an Independence Party member who was elected this fall, along with Robert Bolte and Marion Cooke, two Conservatives who were already on the board, made apparent the shift in power when they voted to appoint the firm of Tabner, Ryan, and Keniry of Albany as attorney to the town, replacing Democrat Joseph Catalano, and abolishing the position of deputy town attorney, which had been filled by John Kosich.

While Catalano, who lives in Rensselaerville, had been the town attorney, that post was also abolished Sunday. In its place, the position of attorney to the town was created, so a non-resident appointment could be made.

Supervisor Marie Dermody and Councilman John Kudlack, now the Democratic minority on the board, voted against the motion.

The board also voted to return to having its regular monthly meetings on the second Thursday of every month.


In 2006, when the Republicans under Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg held the majority on the town board, they replaced Catalano with Tabner, Ryan, and Keniry. Democrats unsuccessfully voted against the measure in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, Catalano was again named the town attorney. He lives in Rensselaerville, and had served in the post prior to 2006.

“We’re looking for legal advice, not political advice,” Bolte said this week of why he pushed for Catalano’s replacement, “and the lawyer is not a member of the town board; he’s only there for legal consultation, and I don’t expect him to talk on for five minutes after he gives his opinion,” he went on, referring to Catalano’s regularly interjecting his views into town board discussions.

At the Jan. 1 meeting, Dermody questioned the switch.

“Since we are hiring the firm, are we guaranteed a one-person contact?” Dermody asked. “Or, every time we call, are we going to get a different attorney within the firm?” She wanted to see specification in the agreement with the firm that the town would have reliable contact with a specific attorney.

“So, we will not be billed for telephone consultation?” Dermody asked next.

“As long as the town board authorizes it,” Councilwoman Cooke replied.

“You mean every time I have a legal question, I have to get town board approval to call him? That is absolutely ridiculous,” Dermody said, “and an incredible disservice to this town.”

“That’s your opinion,” replied Councilman Bolte.

“I think that would be the opinion of many; we had unlimited access to our attorney,” Dermody said of Catalano.

Dermody then asked, given the firm’s location in Albany, if the town would have to pay for transportation or travel time, so that one of the attorneys could attend town meetings. Cooke said that the town would not have to pay for this.

Dermody also asked about the firm’s ability to carry out hearings relating to a personnel matter that had been discussed in executive session, and remaining bond procedures related to the water district; Cooke and Bolte assured her that the firm could handle it.

At the end of the discussion, Bolte made a motion to authorize Dermody to sign the agreement with Tabner, Ryan, and Keniry, which was passed by the same 3-to-2 vote of Bolte, Cooke, and Sedlmeir in favor.

While Tabner, Ryan, and Keniry has been appointed attorney to the town, the specifics of the town’s agreement with the firm have yet to be finalized, and will be discussed at the board’s upcoming meetings.

Dermody declined to provide The Enterprise with this year’s list of appointments and salaries because, she said, all employees at Town Hall were busy with other matters.

By Zach Simeone

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