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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Town Board Moves to Consider Passage of Controversial Comprehensive Plan

The North Greenbush Town Board is preparing to vote on a controversial revision of the proposed Comprehensive Plan Thursday night at 7PM at Town Hall. The revised plan was redone with a $40,000 no bid contract which was characterized by serious violations of the State’s Open Meeting’s Law which states:
§106. Minutes.
1. Minutes shall be taken at all open meetings of a public body which shall consist of a record or summary of all motions, proposals, resolutions and any other matter formally voted upon and the vote thereon.
3. Minutes of meetings of all public bodies shall be available to the public in accordance with the provisions of the freedom of information law within two weeks from the date of such meeting except that minutes taken pursuant to subdivision two hereof shall be available to the public within one week from the date of the executive session.
This new Comprehensive Plan Committee was supposed to “tweak or amend” the completed draft plan of December 2006. In order for this Committee, as a “Public Body”,  to ACT on a resolution to amend the document, there must be a quorum present and a written record of the roll, quorums, motions etc.
A review of the Minutes of this new Committee demonstrate a shocking lack of compliance with the basic requirements of the Open Meetings Law.   Through 11 sets of minutes provided for 2008 and 4 in 2009 up to the June 2, 2009 meeting, there is nothing to indicate that a resolution was voted on to change in any way the plan delivered in 2006.  Yet at the June 2, 2009 meeting, with a  non quorum of 5 members present, the plan was declared finished and ready to be sent to the town board. It was only after this meeting, when their lack of compliance with the law was exposed, did the CPC begin to insure their meetings were properly documented.

The Records Access Officer has also added to the controversy by refusing to obey the FOIL Law by “certifying” copies of minutes she provided under FOIL as “true copies”. The minutes of June 2, 2009 were obtained after several months. They contain 35 words. They list no attendance whatsoever, no record of the discussions of votes taken that day in total defiance of the Open Meetings Law.  The Town Clerk has thus refused to CERTIFY this document or any other set of minutes pursuant to FOIL which reads: Section 87(3)(a) “…the entity shall provide a copy of such record and certify to the correctness of such copy if so requested, or as the case may be, shall certify that it does not have possession of such record or that such record cannot be found after diligent search.

There is one reason the Records Access Officer might refuse to certify a record she provided as a true copy and that rests with the fact that the document was falsified and proof of the CPC’s disregard for compliance with the Open Meetings Law requiring accurate minutes.

This Town Board will be acting to consider a Comprehensive Plan done in defiance of the Open Meetings Law when it meets Thursday night.  They will do so after refusing to seek an unbiased opinion from the State’s foremost authority on the Open Meetings Law, Robert Freeman, and instead will rely on a opinion generated by the Town Attorney who must depend on the Town Board for reappointment to his job in January.

Finally, there is the most controversial change in this revised Plan, a decision to permit high density retail development in an area of RT 4 which is bordered on one side by a residential street and neighborhoods. The Town Board intends to pass a “Negative Declaration on SEQR” which will state there is no negative impact by any part of this plan on the town. Clearly a plan which would allow hundreds of cars off a residential gateway to access a large retail complex approved by this land use map will have a huge negative impact on the neighborhood surrounding Bloomingrove Drive. A full environmental impact review should take place to protect these residents from any negative impact resulting from the future approval of a large big box retail complex in this area.

We can't help but note that Supervisor Evers and Councilman Kern voted against passage of the first plan submitted to them in December 2006.  They cited a belief that it was "hurried" but never once suggested that it was produced in defiance of the Open Meetings Law or any other statute. Since that time, the plan has been the baby of Councilman Spain who chaired the new committee and who has opposed Evers on many fronts, including his re-election bid.

How will Evers and Kern vote Thursday? They opposed a plan without any suggestion of the legal mis-steps documented in this one.  Will they now leave office by supporting a plan created in clear defiance of the Open Meetings Law with the cloud of falsified minutes hanging over it like a vulture?

We don't know, but wouldn't it be interesting to see some folks twisting in the wind and two public officials demonstrating a degree of integrity many don't expect from them? Your last chance to speak about this plan comes Thursday night at 7PM. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First they hand the town over to developers and then they are going to hand out all the important jobs to their political friends. Desso is pushing to hire some political hack from East Greenbush as the new Town Comptroller. They already have two political hacks as deputy town attorneys while we have a long list of attorneys here in town who could be offered these positions.
So much for putting professionals in important town jobs, people recruited and hired after a search. Just hire your friends boys!