Serious question about the integrity of the Berne building inspector

To the Editor:

I was recently a candidate for the Berne Town Board and have long been a supporter of the Republican Party locally. Generally, the town of Berne has been controlled by elected officials supported by the Democratic party and without major controversy.

Recently, however, it has become apparent that the town of Berne officials have been utilizing the office of the building inspector as a kind of political weapon against Berne residents. Your recent article and editorial has only touched the most blatant example of the building inspector’s more brazen conduct for his own personal advantage.

On the other hand, I am aware of a local resident who sought the necessary approval of the building inspector in connection with a residential improvement and was asked during the home inspection whether he was a voter and then whether he was a Republican or a Democrat.

Really? This is a matter of proper inquiry by an official who has absolute discretion on granting or not granting building permits or applying zoning restrictions on a nearly arbitrary basis?

What makes the above circumstance so questionable is that a local contractor who lives and does frequent work in the town of Berne has not been able to secure a single building permit for his projects since the current building inspector has taken over that office [while others are able to build]....

His political party enrollment reflected the different treatment.

The treatment of the saltbox property nearly adjoining the personal residence of the building inspector and his partner has been well documented in the pages of this newspaper, and it is obvious that landowners who are not voters residing in the town of Berne are given a different kind of treatment, especially if they are out-of-state residents.

More to the point, it is obvious that the present building inspector will not hesitate to use his office for his own personal advantage and profit, or exercise his discretion for his own perceived political benefit when it may be in the interest of the political advantage of local Democrat elected officials.

To date, the remarks and responses of our local Berne supervisor to your paper have been supportive of the obviously bad conduct and decision-making by the building inspector and at some point his judgment in these matters becomes curious.

We do not know at this time the results of the bidding process for the Albany County tax sale of the 42-acre parcel adjoining the building inspector’s residence, but that sale process and its results should be reviewed with care.

This matter is one of public importance for the residents of the town of Berne because for the first time recently there is serious question about the personal integrity of a local official.

Phil Stevens


Editor’s note: Phil Stevens formerly chaired the Berne Republican Committee.

The local resident who had the home inspections said she understood the conversation on party affiliations to be small talk; while she didn’t like being asked, she had no sense his decisions on her property were improper or against the law.

The local contractor confirmed that the building inspector would not call him back and the contractor has been before him several times without results, he said.


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