The Facts are Very Clear, and Clearly Damning

This letter was published in yesterday’s issue of the Gazette.

To the Editor:
I was unable to attend the candidates debate at the village library, but I read the Gazette’s report on the forum with great interest. As I read the article I was struck by Dr. Schmidt’s condemnation of the Mayor’s decision “to accept” government health insurance benefits and Trustee Slippen’s comment that it is easy for others to judge the Mayor’s decision without having had the same “opportunity” offered them.     

I see it a little differently. The Mayor did not “accept” “the opportunity” of receiving health insurance—the Mayor, in concert with our former Village Manager, engineered it! The facts are very clear, and clearly damning. When Obamacare kicked in, the Mayor saw an “opportunity” to obtain a personal benefit for his “volunteer” public service and then claimed to be working 30-32 hours a week; a work schedule that conveniently qualified the Mayor for health coverage, but is (i) inconsistent with our model of local government (employing a full time Manager) and (ii) incredible and preposterous on its face. No Ms. Slippen, obtaining health care benefits at taxpayer expense was not an “opportunity” offered our Mayor—this was a opportunity the Mayor worked and schemed to exploit (with the help of some and silence of others, but that is another letter). 

And, although Dr. Schmidt condemns the Mayor’s efforts to exploit his volunteer public service position for personal benefit, for me there a more troubling, sinister aspect to the story: The facts are now clear that the Mayor tried to cover up his scheme to get free health care. It’s sad, but true. First, the true part: Concerned citizens (label them as you will) filed a FOIL request for access to the public budget to get the facts (how quaint!) and . . . the pages of the public budget listing expenditures for health care were redacted—for the first time in village history! Coincidence? I don’t think so. Legal? Absolutely not.

But don’t take my word for it, ask Robert Freedman, Chair of the NYS Committee on Open Government. I did. And in response to my question at an open forum at Village Hall (with the Mayor and Trustees present) Mr. Friedman was befuddled and unable to conceive of any scenario that would result in denying access to any portion of a public budget. Oh yes, and the sad part: The Mayor thought he could deny citizens/taxpayers the right to public information (that would reveal his scheme) and the Village Trustees, (former) Village Manager and Village Attorney sat silent. To state the obvious: The Mayor’s brazen, lawless and irresponsible behavior did not occur in a vacuum.

The Mayor’s scheme to cover up his scheme to obtain health benefits (based on implausible and demonstrably fictitious time records) is a disgrace and an insult to anyone who believes in honest, open government. And the silence of the Mayor’s fellow board members on this issue is equally troubling; it’s suppose to be a system of checks and balances. There is an election coming very soon and any incumbent trustee that continues to accept or excuse the Mayor’s actions to (i) use public monies for his personal benefit and (ii) thereafter cover up his scheme by denying a legitimate FOIL request to a public budget does not understand public trust placed in your hands. 

Very truly yours, 
Rick Turner