I fervently pray Berne voters take heed

To the Editor:

Berne Republican and Republican party-backed officials have a clear pattern of harassing elected and appointed officials who dare to disagree with them. In this week’s edition, there is an article and letter to the editor discussing a very small portion of what Republican and Republican-backed officials have subjected Councilman Joel Willsey to.

When Supervisor Sean Lyons and Councilman Dennis Palow started their terms in January 2018, it didn’t take long to realize that, between the two of them and town Republican Party Chairman and Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger, filling out the remainder of my term as councilwoman was not going to be an easy or pleasant experience.

It was clearly even worse for new Councilman Joel Willsey, who had endured a relentless stream of personal attacks and harassment from the time he began running for office.

In 2019, a number of investigations were launched against town board members. We were not told who made the allegations, what they were, or whom they were against.

Given the way Joel had been treated, my guess had been that the allegations were against him. In June of 2019, the town attorney contacted me because the law firm that had been hired to handle the investigations wanted to interview me.

Imagine my shock when I sat down at the interview and was told one of the investigations regarded charges against me. And take note — as I was not told that allegations were pending against me, I was not afforded the opportunity to secure any kind of legal representation or advice.

I was appalled. However, when I was told the allegation and who brought it, I admit, I laughed in disbelief.

During our budget process, when raises for employees and officials had been discussed, I had voted, along with councilmembers Willsey and [Karen] Schimmer, to not grant Randy Bashwinger the 18-percent raise he had requested or the 10-percent alternative that Supervisor [Sean] Lyons proposed. 

Deciding who is deserving of a raise and how much the town can afford is part of a councilmember’s job.  It is one of the tasks that voters elect us to do.

Mr. Bashwinger had the town launch an investigation against me for misconduct because I voted against his requested raise. He and Mr. Lyons wasted taxpayers’ hard-earned money to hire a high-priced law firm to investigate me for doing the job that Berne voters elected me to do.

Months went by with no word on the results of the investigation, other than being told that, when the determination came, the wording would be to the effect that the charges would be found to either have, or to not have, merit.

My second shock came in the form of a letter from Supervisor Lyons in early January 2020 — after my second term ended on Dec. 31, 2019.

The letter states, “The investigation has concluded, and you are no longer considered a potential subject of discipline.”

Not that the charges had no merit, but he had decided not to discipline me — for doing my job!

In addition, the supervisor had no authority to “discipline” me in the first place. We were all equally elected officials. Only town employees can be “disciplined” and there must be absolute proof that they have violated a policy rule or law in order to do so.

They knew this, so I must conclude the only reason for this allegation and investigation was to intimidate.

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. The absurdity of all this leaves me beyond words, and the harassment and bully-like tactics of this group leaves me very concerned for the future of our town.

I hope and fervently pray that the voters take a long hard look at who they have put into office when the next round of local elections occur in 2021. Our town and its hard-working taxpayers and residents deserve better.

Dawn G. Jordan


Editor’s note: Dawn G. Jordan shared with The Enterprise a Jan. 7, 2020 letter signed by Sean Lyons saying she was “no longer considered a potential subject of discipline.” She also shared an email thread from June 2019 in which she corresponded with William Conboy, then Berne’s town attorney, about the time and place for her to be interviewed by lawyer Benjamin Heffley.

“These are the only documents I have,” said Jordan. “I was allowed to briefly view the original complaint document during the interview, but I was not allowed to take a snapshot of it nor was I given a copy of it when I asked.”

Joined: 09/03/2019 - 08:36
out of control

Wow, someone needs to notify the state that you were being harassed for not granting a raise to someone. There needs to be an independent investigation considering all these allegations were unfounded and you were not provided due process when questioned by the lawyer.

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