Press-Republican

December 29, 2012

Former Mooers town clerk still simmers

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — MOOERS — Shirley Gadway left the position of town clerk/tax collector for the Town of Mooers with a bad taste in her mouth.

“I did not quit because I didn’t like my job. I loved my job,” she said in a recent interview. “I hated to leave, but I just couldn’t put up with the stress there anymore.”

Gadway was tax collector for 25 years, along with more than seven years as town clerk, once those two elected posts were combined. 

Town Supervisor Cory Ross said she left for “personal reasons.”

Gadway said she is disappointed with what she described as the blatant disregard of the law on the part of the Mooers Town Council, involving issues that began at the start of 2012.

The selection of new appointments for vacant positions was done illegally in secret meetings, she alleged.

Town Supervisor Cory Ross says he wasn’t aware of any transgressions on his part.

MEETINGS UNADVERTISED

In the past year, four town employees, including Gadway, left their positions before the end of their terms. In April, Gadway said, Bob West left his job as code enforcement officer and was replaced by Jess Dixon.

Then, Dog Control Officer Todd Forrette resigned, and Kaleigh Labombard filled his spot. And former Recreation Director Alfie Ladeau moved out of town, and Tyson Dumas assumed that post.

Gadway said at least four meetings that included a Town Council quorum — two or more of five members — were held in Ross’s office.

According to the Open Meetings Law, a quorum constitutes an official convening of a public body (Town Council), and “public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.”

Ross said he and three or so council members conducted interviews of the candidates in his office. Those meetings were not advertised, he said.

“It wasn’t intentionally done on my part,” he said of the lapse in following the law.

He said Gadway presented her objections “after the fact.”

And, he said in a phone interview Friday, “These problems that she has could easily have been not problems at all. All she had to do was say, ‘You have to advertise this, or whatever ...’”

Gadway says she handed out copies of the state’s Open Meetings Law at a board meeting in the spring, but the illegal activity didn’t stop after that. 

Secret meetings are unfair to town residents, who have the right to be informed of town business before decisions are made, Gadway said.

“It’s their (taxpayers’) money you’re spending. Give them the right to appear and to oppose or agree.”

OBJECTIONS OVER LIBRARY

Then there’s the hotly debated issue of the Mooers Free Library.

The town had a chance to bring the library up to date with handicap accessibility standards back in 1996, Gadway said. But that didn’t happen.

And in May of this year, plans to add a ramp to the existing building were presented to the Town Council at a meeting, she said.

“They were for it at that point.”

That all changed when a resident at the meeting stood up and said, according to Gadway, “Why put that kind of money into the older building when you can build a new one for $50,000?”

However, she said, an estimate from Sample Lumber in Mooers said the shell for the new building, with no labor charges included, would cost $32,000, and Gadway doesn’t see how the remaining cost of construction for a new library could be just $18,000 more than that.

Ross said Friday he didn’t have the paperwork in front of him so he didn’t recall whether that figure is accurate. But the total amount of $50,000 is correct, he said.

As she had about the Open Meetings issue, Gadway consulted the New York State Association of Towns, this time asking whether town residents have a say in how their tax dollars are spent on such a project.

That depends on the source of funding, replied association Counsel Lori Mithen-Demasi in an email dated Oct. 18.

In general, she said, a permissive referendum would be required before use of funds raised by tax levy, from a capital-reserve fund or by a bond that would need more than five years to retire the debt.

Friday, Ross said a committee appointed by the Town Council will report in January on a search for the best location for a new library.

NO DEPUTY CLERK

Gadway also said she was prohibited from appointing a deputy to train to take her place.

Ross said the Town Council didn’t want to pay two people to do the same job and spend money on training the deputy when he or she may not be elected to the post at some point.

That was another question Gadway asked the Association of Towns.

“Our Supervisor says he can appoint my Deputy and I said the book says I appoint my own Deputy ...”

The response from Mithen-Demasi, dated Aug. 7, said, “Town Law ... authorizes the town clerk to appoint up to three deputy town clerks. The first deputy may act on behalf of the town clerk and the second and third deputies have their duties set by the town board. The town board sets the compensation for each deputy.”

Town law, she said, “provides that the first deputy will be responsible for all of the duties of the town clerk in the town clerk’s absence or if there is a vacancy in the office of town clerk. If there is no deputy town clerk ... the town board may fill the vacancy in the office of deputy town clerk.”

Gadway presented her letter of resignation to the board at its September meeting.

Rena Bosley was appointed town clerk/tax collector on Nov. 7 by the Town Council. 

“I’m very impressed with her” work so far, Ross said in an earlier interview.

“I’d like to thank her (Gadway) for many years of service to the Town of Mooers,” he added.

Gadway spoke well of her successor.

“She’s (Bosley) a very intelligent person. I think she will do very well unless she takes the wrong path,” she said. “I wish everybody well.”

Of her first month on the job, Bosley said, “it’s been very interesting.”

Bosley’s appointment ends with the completion of Gadway’s term at the close of 2013, so the post will be up for vote next November.

News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.