North Greenbush Democrats

North Greenbush Democrats
Fighting For You!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Councilmen would reduce property tax cut further to 5.5%

October 22,2004

North Greenbush Councilmen Richard Fennelly and James Mihalko expressed support for changes to the proposed 2005 town budget that would more than double the GOP plan to cut property taxes 2%.

They announced their proposal after a budget meeting (Oct 21st)with town officials in which it was revealed that the town’s surplus is approximately $960,000. The GOP announced plans to use an unlimited amount of this surplus, much of which could wind up in the pocket of the politically connected town attorney who has spent most of her time suing town residents.

“Recently, the GOP Board members voted to award this attorney a 62% lump sum pay raise of $25,000. Applying this unjustified raise to the reduction of property taxes would reduce the tax rate another 2.7%”, stated Fennelly. Both councilmen also expressed opposition to the majority’s vote to further enrich this attorney by refusing to cap the salary she can draw from their soon to be created “litigation fund”. They forced a vote on their proposal to cap the town attorney’s salary which was defeated by Councilmen Ashe, Styczynski, and Supervisor Tazbir.

“We cannot escape the irony of holding town employees to a 2% pay hike while giving the town attorney a 62% lump sum raise and the potential to drawn down a $336,000 litigation fund without limits”, stated Mihalko. I must also note that this was the latest in a series of votes involving the town attorney from which Councilman Ashe should have recused himself. Since the town attorney is the wife of Councilman Ashe’s private sector employer, he is using his position as a Councilman to curry favor with his employer by giving her a huge raise and unlimited access to even more public money, stated Mihalko. “Taxpayers should not have to pay 2.7% more in property taxes so the town attorney can enjoy a 62% lump sum raise”, concluded Mihalko. He repeated his call for action on a proposed Ethics Law which the majority has ignored for months.

“Every $9,000 we save cuts 1% off the property tax rate. A 2% cut is simply inadequate when we continue to dispense public funds to “special people” which offends standards of sensibility” stated Fennelly. The Councilmen also expressed opposition to continued funding for a paid “spin doctor” who writes press releases exclusively for the 3 GOP board members. “Here is someone who has a full time job with the County that pays him more than $60,000 annually and yet he too receives another 2% in his part time capacity writing spin for 3 of 5 board members. That’s another $6,400 salary that could be applied to property tax reduction”. These two raises alone would more than double the proposed tax cut from 2% to 5.5%, concluded the Councilmen.
($25,000 + $6,400= $31,400 divide by $9,000=3.5%…2% + 3.5% = 5.5%)
(We note again that this press release was not paid for with public funds.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Ashley calls budget misplaced priorities:Lawyers vs Leaves

Ashley calls GOP budget “Leaves vs Lawyers, misplaced priorities”

10/5/04 North Greenbush Democratic Chairman Dan Ashley criticized the tentative town budget as an example of misplaced priorities that places the needs of a well connected lawyer ahead of the critical services town residents depend on. “When it comes to leaves verses lawyers, the boss’s wife seems to win every way possible in this budget”, stated Ashley.

Town Republicans are effusive in their praise for the need to give the town attorney a virtual blank pay check while criticizing proposals by the Highway Superintendent to rectify years of neglect under his predecessor. Ashley criticized the plan to give Councilman Ashe’s boss’s wife a virtual blank check by opening a door to pay her unending bonuses in addition to her salary. “Once again, Councilman Ashe is blind to the needs of town residents while bowing to the financial wish list of his boss’s wife”. The plan would make the town attorney “the highest paid town employee in history” by giving her incentives to litigate everything imaginable.

“The irony here is that most of the increased litigation has resulted from the misconduct and bad legal advice of the town attorney evidenced most recently by a judge’s scolding threatening to sanction her for misleading the court”. The town attorney concocted the plan to refuse to return petitions to town residents in an effort to deny voting rights. These actions are now costing taxpayers up to $80,000 by hiring an outside law firm to appeal the decision, plus the potential of thousands more in court costs. “I can’t understand why it’s more important to give an attorney more money to fight the people of this town than to pave their roads and pick up their leaves. Her salary bonus alone could have paved 1562 linear feet of road!”

Most recently, Councilman Ashe voted to give his boss’s wife a 64%, $25,000 retroactive lump sum pay raise which I believe is an illegal disbursement. As a county legislator for 20 years, I’ve watch legislators Kelleher, Reid, Brearton, Doran and myself, who worked at HVCC, recuse themselves from voting on the school budget to avoid the appearance of favoritism for their employer. Yet Councilman Ashe repeatedly votes to appoint his employer’s wife to a town job and to give her a raise, all the while ignoring appearances and the Ethics Law. I am certain he will vote yet again to give her a blank check pay raise while saying NO to the purchase of new equipment, NO to $24,000 in additional repairs to town equipment, $10,000 to fix drainage problems plaguing town residents; $4,000 to buy additional salt for the winter roads, NO to $1,500 for rising fuel costs, $4000 for state mandated sign replacements long neglected in prior budgets and NO to $100,000 to pave roads in new developments like Pond Hill and the Tech Park.

Ashley noted that the Highway Superintendent did not ask for not one penny more for himself, freezing his salary for the next two years. “The GOP jumps for joy at lining the pockets of their town attorney and paid spin doctor while criticizing the Highway Superintendent for asking for funds to provide services to town residents. Maybe the town attorney and Mr. Crist should go around and pick up leaves because their salaries are far more important than highway department services”. The salaries in the Supervisor’s office find the “tax and spenders” adding 15% or $11,000 which could pave 687 linear feet of roads. “It speaks volumes that this administration would rather spend $7,200 a year for a non resident to write their press releases than find money to pick up leaves and plow roads”. For now we have accept as necessary, spending tax dollars to write budget press releases which attack other town officials.

10/15/04 GOP moves to creates “Bottomless Slush Fund” for “Boss’s Wife”

News Release of October 15, 2004
North Greenbush Democratic Chairman Dan Ashley called a move by the GOP Majority of the Town Board to establish a litigation budget code for the exclusive use of the town attorney a “bottomless slush fund for the exclusive use of Councilman Ashe’s boss’s wife”.

“Last night the town GOP majority took the first step to giving Councilman Ashe’s boss’s wife a virtual blank check pay raise by “introducing” legislation to create a “litigation fund” from which the town attorney will be able to draw down in addition to her salary. This is on top of an August $25,000 lump sum 64% pay raise which I believe is illegal. The move gives the town attorney an incentive to litigate she would not otherwise have as a salaried employee.

At the same time Councilman Ashe is lining the pockets of his boss’s wife, he wants elected officials to give up a 3% raise "I'd like people in this town to have enough money in their pocket to enjoy it with their family" Ashe told a reporter. With that litmus test, he must want his boss’s wife to take her family to Disney World for a month while town taxpayers get the equivalent of a meal on the dollar menu at McDonald’s.

Ashley noted once again the total disregard for the town’s long ignored Ethics Law by Ashe refusing to recuse himself from efforts to reward his boss’s wife with public funds. “He has now voted twice to appoint her to a town job and once to increase her salary, perhaps illegally and now supports the creation of this bottomless slush fund from which the town attorney will likely become the highest paid employee in town history!”

I believe his votes have violated the spirit and intent of S-13-4 Conflicts of Interest and 14-5 Standards of Conduct sections C,D,E.
C)No town employee shall use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or others.
(D)No town employee shall engage in any transaction as a representative or agent of the town with any business entity in which he has a direct or indirect financial interest that might reasonably tend to conflict with the proper discharge of his official duties.
(E)A town employee shall not by his conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties or that he is affected by the kinship, rank, position or influence of any party or person.

Wouldn’t every resident of this town love to be in a position to give their employer’s spouse a public job and a big pay raise, asked Ashley. Well, Bob has used his elected office to do just that! And for 3 years there has been no Ethics Board appointed under Ashe and his majority to tell him he was wrong.

A Message from the Chairman

The North Greenbush Democratic Committee is committeed to providing open, accountable government that is responsive to the needs our our citizens. It is no secret that the pace and type of development supported by the current administration has become a source of great division within our community.

Town Democrats are committed to development policies that put people before politics. Our chief goal will be to put town residents back in charge of development decisions through the re-establishment of a Master Plan Committee which was disbanded by the current Republcan administration.
Many feel and I agree, that development interests are in control of the current town board majority. Hence a policy of "blank check development"has divided our citizens as well as our town board. The move by DeFreestville residents to form an independent village is a direct result of the majority's refusal to listen to their concerns with regard to developent issues and instead give developers every consideration from density exemptions to unwarrented tax breaks.
Other issues which have come to the forefront of the differences between the two major partys include ethics in government and the current administration's refusal to either enforce the existing Ethics Law or adopt long overdue revisions to that law which would stop the conflicts of interest that have dominated the current board's agenda.
All town residents are invited to keep on top of events affecting our community by browsing this site and offering your comments. Our elected officials and candidates will also have access to this site to keep you posted on their activities.
Dan Ashley,Chairman North Greenbush Democratic Committee