SARANAC LAKE — A neighbor of one of Mayor Clyde Rabideau’s development properties took to a village board meeting last week to accuse the mayor of swearing at her, pointing to the alleged dispute as evidence of a pattern of bad behavior by the elected official. Rabideau denies the allegation.
The neighbor, Jamie Ackerson, accused Rabideau of swearing at her on a job site in 2019, bringing the issue up during a public comment period. Rabideau and Ackerson shouted at each other during the comment period, Rabideau pounded his gavel and accusations were thrown both ways.
“She’s a bold-faced liar,” he said. “I have never spoken to her with an ill word.”
Both swear they’re telling the truth.
“I would take a polygraph test,” Ackerson said.
Accusation and denial
Ackerson lives at the top of a hill on Fox Run, a street off Kiwassa Road where Rabideau’s Rabideau Corp. company developed a property next to hers in 2019. She had similar complaints as other neighbors about his construction projects — she felt the new structures would change the character of the neighborhood, she believed a slice of property Rabideau has claim to is actually her land, and she felt the development board gave him an easy time for a project that she believes damaged her land.
She said when she brought these issues up in 2019, Rabideau cursed at her.
“Three times I approached you; you called me names and you put your fists up to me,” she said at last week’s meeting.
“That is totally wrong,” Rabideau shouted.
“Let her speak,” several members of the audience shouted.
Rabideau pounded his gavel.
Later, Ackerson told the Enterprise what she alleges Rabideau said to her — “Get the f*** out of my way you b****,” and “Get off my f****** property you c***.”
This is the second time a village resident has accused Rabideau of cursing at them. The first, Linda Scheefer, said this summer that Rabideau called her a “f****** b****” on a job site on Duprey Street — a neighborhood across Lake Flower from Fox Run — where there’s a dispute over property lines.
Asked if this was true in September, Rabideau said: “I don’t recall.”
After last week’s meeting, he said of Ackerson’s accusation, “This one is such a lie.”
“Not true. Not true. Totally not true,” he said. “That’s a lie, a total lie. Lie. Lie. Lie.”
“You didn’t hear me say all that the first time, did you?” he asked, referring to Scheefer’s accusation. “This is a total lie.
“If I had said something to (Ackerson), I would have been coy,” he added.
“Given Ms. Ackerson’s regular disorientation and dress when coming on to our property I treated her evenly, asking her to ‘please’ go off the property for her own safety,” he wrote in an email later.
He called the public session a “hatchet job.”
“This baseless accusation is reprehensible,” he wrote in an email.
‘WHAT I DEAL
WITH EVERY DAY’
Rabideau has faced opposition from neighbors at many of his development sites around the village. Ackerson’s case, from the construction conflicts to the accusations of cursing and neighbors bothering workers, is very similar to other projects on Duprey Street, which saw similar disputes earlier this year.
“This is what I deal with every day with the neighbors,” Rabideau said of his job sites.
He said Ackerson would yell and take pictures of him and his employees.
“She came over with coffee dribbled down and unbuttoned nightgown every morning on our property,” Rabideau said. “I don’t think she’s well.”
He said she came onto the job site several times and almost got hit in the head with a backhoe once.
Rabideau said Ackerson has no witnesses.
“I have witnesses,” he said — his employees.
Brad Drollette, a former Rabideau Corp. employee who worked on the Fox Run project, said Ackerson was causing trouble at the work site by being too close to machinery but felt Rabideau treated her politely.
“Clyde never swore at her or anything,” Drollette said.
He said he was on the job site all day, every day, so he feels like he never missed an interaction between them. But Ackerson said she doesn’t think anyone would have heard their conversation.
“It was just the two of us,” she said. “There’s no way those guys heard what I was saying.”
Rabideau questioned why Ackerson was accusing him of this years after the fact.
Ackerson acknowledged it’s been a while and the conflict is over.
She said she was over it, but decided to bring the issue up publicly after she read an Enterprise article about Scheefer’s interaction with the mayor.
“I have nothing to gain by this,” she said.
She called Rabideau a “bully” and said she wants him to admit to cursing at her and stop it in the future, though he is denying doing so.
“He’s done it to other people,” Ackerson said. “It’s a pattern. And it’s normally against women.”
She said she heard the workers next door call her the same words and said she couldn’t go into her yard during construction without hearing people talk about her.
Local activist Fred Balzac, who has joined neighbors opposing Rabideau’s projects in the past, asked the village board to censure Rabideau. The board did not make an action to discuss this.
He said Rabideau should apologize and consider resigning.
“Citizens of this community do not deserve to be treated this way,” Balzac said.
Rabideau is not running for reelection. His term will expire on March 31, 2022.
Still, Balzac said the village should condemn the actions he’s been accused of.
Rabideau alleged that Balzac has been gathering people with complaints against him in an effort to hurt his political
and business standing. Balzac said this is false.
“Fred Balzac went door-to-door on Fox Run soliciting people to disparage me and he coached Ms. Ackerson,” Rabideau wrote.
Balzac said he never went around looking for people to complain about the mayor. He said he canvassed in the Fox Run area when he ran for village trustee in 2020, but never spoke with Ackerson. Ackerson said she reached out to Duprey Street residents after reading about Scheefer’s altercation with Rabideau in the Enterprise and they told her about Balzac.
He said he talked to her about attending a village meeting but did not tell her what to say.
Moving on or moving away
Ackerson has lived on Fox Run for 35 years.
Now, she’s considering moving away. She feels Rabideau set her new neighbor up to dislike her and there’s been bad blood between them over the poor drainage between their yards.
Ackerson’s house is uphill from his development. In construction, Rabideau removed a rock retaining wall on the edge of the property. This is where the dispute over the property line was. The rock line was replaced six months ago at her request, an action Rabideau said was “cordial” and one which he points to to bring her accusation of him cursing at her into question.
Ackerson said without the wall, there had been drainage problems in her new neighbor’s yard and it’s been causing tension between them. She said the developers cut trees that didn’t need to be cut.
Ackerson said when she attended a village Development Board meeting on Aug. 6, 2019 to address other issues with the project, she saw the board question a property owner about drainage at a home he was building for two hours. She felt the development board should have asked more drainage questions of Rabideau’s project, like they did for other projects.
At the village board meeting, Ackerson held up photos of village trucks on her street. She believes they were there doing work for Rabideau. The next day, village Manager John Sweeney clarified that the village crews were there to do village work — working on a water and sewer tap.
“The pictures show village workers doing village work,” Rabideau said. “Do you think I’m f****** crazy? That I’d have village workers do anything on my property?”
When it comes to the property line, Rabideau said his surveyor, Robert Marvin, surveyed the property twice to come to his determination. He said he believes Ackerson’s allegation about the property line is false.
Rabideau said because Sweeney and Marvin have contended Ackerman’s accusations about village workers and property lines, he thinks her accusation of swearing should be discounted, too.