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Why Did Sweden Town Council Violate State’s Open Meetings Law?

www.dos.ny.gov/coog/openmeetlaw.html
www.dos.ny.gov/coog/openmeetlaw.html
NYS Open Meetings Law

Last Tuesday, in a clear violation of New York State’s Open Meetings Law, the Sweden Town Council went into closed session to discuss the Clinton Street Development project.

That night, the Sweden Town Council said they went into executive session to discuss "legal matters". But that is clearly not allowed under the provisions of New York State’s Open Meetings Law - Public Officers Law Article 7, Section 105.

That section of the law is only 255 long, and the text of the law is readily available online for everyone to see, so there is absolutely no excuse for the town council members to violate the law.Section 105. Conduct of executive sessions.

§105. Conduct of executive sessions.

1. Upon a majority vote of its total membership, taken in an open meeting pursuant to a motion identifying the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered, a public body may conduct an executive session for the below enumerated purposes only, provided, however, that no action by formal vote shall be taken to appropriate public moneys:

a. matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;
b. any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;
c. information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;
d. discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;
e. collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;
f. the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;
g. the preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and
h. the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.
2. Attendance at an executive session shall be permitted to any member of the public body and any other persons authorized by the public body.

The wording of New York State’s Open Meetings Law is as clear as the nose on your face, so it is puzzling that the five members of the Sweden Town Board violated this law.

Now residents of the Town of Sweden are asking why the five members of the town council did that.

The conversation centers around four possibilities:

  • The members of the town council are lazy
  • The members of the town council are incompetent
  • Somebody behind the scenes is calling the shots
  • The members of the town council are corrupt

Town council members are lazy
The buzz around town is that the town council members are too lazy to do their jobs because Sweden is a one party town.

Supervisor Robert Carges and council members Donald Roberts, Danielle Windus-Cook, Rebecca Donohue, and Robert Musebeck are all Republicans, and in Sweden Republican nominees are virtually assured of election the moment they are nominated.

If that is the cause of the problem, then registered Republicans in Sweden can fix the problem by nominating someone else. There are many good who people in Sweden who are registered Republicans. Perhaps it’s time for them to take control of their political party again

Town council members are incompetent
There is some evidence to support this allegation.

Residents still can’t send an email directly to council members Donohue, Musebeck, Roberts, or Windus-Cook. Residents are forced to send their email to Director of Finance Leisa Strabel and then hope that she forwards it to the members of the town council.

In the second decade of the 21st century, that is a sure sign of incompetence.

The town council’s handling of the finances of the town court is another example of incompetence.
In March 2010, Leisa Strabel, Director of Finance for the Town of Sweden, was asked “How much money did the Sweden Town Court collect in 2009 from the Vehicle and Traffic Law tickets written by the Brockport Police Department?”
Strabel replied “Here are the figures for the 2009 town court:”

Total Fines Collected..........................$442,330..........100.00%
Remitted to New York State...............$248,779............56.24%
Retained by the Town of Sweden.......$174,751.......... 39.51%
Remitted to the Village of Brockport.....$18,800.............4.25%

The town court had revenues of $174,751, and yet the members of the Sweden Town Council insist that the Sweden Town Court loses money. For some reason they don’t want to be confused by the facts.

In 2009, 49% of the revenue of the Sweden Town Court was generated by tickets written by the Brockport Police Department, even though the town contributes nothing to the cost of the police department, but the town returned none of that money to the village. Not a cent.

Instead, the town staff threw the parking tickets written by the village into a cardboard box under a desk and did not bother to collect the money from the fines, all of which would have gone to the village.

Those are the main reasons that the Village of Brockport is in the process of creating a Village Court. Village residents are sick and tired of subsidizing the town government and getting nothing in return.

Somebody behind the scenes is calling the shots
While Danielle Windus-Cook has the reputation of being a go getter, Rob Carges, Don Roberts, Becky Donohue, and Robert Musebeck all have the reputation of being “go along to get along” kinds of people.

There is nothing wrong with that kind of personality, but someone on the Sweden Town Council has to show some leadership, and since none of the present council members seems to be doing so, it leads to speculation that someone who has not been elected to office is actually calling the shots.

The members of the town council are corrupt.
Sweden residents probably talk about this possibility because they are fed up with some of the stupid things that go on in the Sweden Town Hall.

In March 2009, Sweden Supervisor Buddy Lester had to resign after he was charged with failing to file New York State tax returns, a Class E felony.

Sweden residents haven’t forgotten that scandal, and when town council keeps getting things wrong, some residents blame it on corruption.

Sweden resident who are concerned about the way the Sweden Town Council violated New York State’s Open Meetings Law, when they went into closed session to discuss the Clinton Street Development project, can contact the NYS Committee on Open Government.

NYS Committee on Open Government
Department of State
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Avenue, Suite 650
Albany, NY 12231

Executive Director: Robert J. Freeman

Email: coog@dos.ny.gov

Telephone: (518) 474-2518

Fax: (518) 474-1927