Colden Town employees exhibiting bullying to meeting attendees
Monday September 3, 2012 | By:Marilynn Calhoun-Allen |
Bullying has been a serious topic, receiving a great deal of media attention lately and now it’s sad to say that it has crept into our small town’s government and politics.
I retired in 2006, after being the town of Colden’s supervisor for 20 years. I returned to attending board meetings last year, after some residents, including a councilman, came to me seeking help, because they were refused information that should have been available under Freedom of Information Law. That was wrong. This year, we have two councilmen being denied necessary information.
Three weeks ago, I went to a work session after the meeting I requested to be put on this month’s agenda regarding fiscal concerns.
After some preliminary inquiries into what my concerns were, Supervisor Hoffman angrily told me no. I lost my temper and responded in kind to her. I am sorry that I stooped that low and responded negatively. I have apologized to the councilmen for that outburst. I’m just not use to an elected official talking to a constituent in such an openly hostile and profane manner. Then, to secure clarification, I FOILed the fiscal information over which I have concerns, only to be again stonewalled and denied, with a reply stating my request was “vague.”
People may question why I attend and speak out at meetings. Although retired, I still care about Colden and know what information should be accessible to the councilmen and public. What I have observed of late is that people’s civil rights are being ignored and possibly violated.
I have contacted the NYS comptroller’s office and Bob Freeman from NYSCOG with my concerns. Freeman had stated, “Opinions containing quoted text are a direct quote of the law, which also is the basis of the opinion.” Supervisor Hoffman has stated that it is only an “opinion” and doesn’t matter. One would think that if the town officials receive an opinion from an agency responsible for interpreting state law, the town would follow it.
A special meeting was called for Saturday, Aug. 18th at 9 a.m. The town had to act on insurance coverage changes that they were not prepared for at the scheduled August meeting. One proposed change was to provide coverage to domestic partners and children to age 29.
In the middle of the meeting, the supervisor and Councilman Murphy left the meeting without any comment, leaving those in attendance wondering if this concluded the business. They eventually returned and the insurance salesperson arrived to answer questions.
I am choosing this forum so that the problems in Colden can become better known and to encourage residents to pay closer attention. If questions and concerns remain unanswered, ignored or, even worse, lead to open hostility, the current practices will continue and any semblance of representative government will continue to deteriorate. The residents of Colden interest and participation is needed to bring us back to being an open, honest, non-bullying government!
Marilynn Calhoun-Allen Retired supervisor