First disclaimer: I’m not running for anything. Get it out of your mind.
Second disclaimer: The issue being written about below has absolutely nothing to do with the person, and everything to do with the process. I don’t know the person. If you do, and if you have a problem with that person, keep it to yourself. This post is not about that sort of thing. It is entirely about an issue of procedure.
Okay. It’s reasonable, then, to ask, “Lance, if you aren’t running for anything, why do you feel the need to comment – especially about something that takes place in Johnstown?”
The answer is that I’m a procedures guy, and the issue of the process used to appoint a new Councilman-at-Large in Johnstown violates a very simple procedure and just rubs me like petting a cat backwards. It offends what’s left of my sensibilities so much that even now, years after any formal involvement in local politics, it can still lead to eventual finger-to-keyboard eruption. The result of that ghastly non-medical condition follows.
Here’s the bit of text that caused this post to be written:
Note that it says the candidates were interviewed during a closed-door executive session. I didn’t think this was right because it was not the process used by Gloversville when it had to replace its Councilman-at-Large, Duke Caruso, in 2005 when he needed to move.
So, I wrote to Robert Freeman, Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government this morning, who gave me a written response an astonishing ten minutes later (seriously, I am aware of no other government office that moves at the speed of this little organization). If I, Joe Civilian, can get an answer to the simple question, “Does the process for interviewing for appointment to a normally elected position follow the reasons for executive session listed in the Open Meetings Law section 105.(1).(f), surely someone holding an elected or appointed position should be able to get that answer as well.
Yet it doesn’t appear to have occurred to anyone to check. No, instead the default position is always secrecy. Closed doors. Shhhh.
What? You think the people who would normally elect this office holder might not want to listen to what they have to say as you, the council, make a decision on who will hold the second highest elected office in the city – a city that has just recently had the unfortunate experience of losing a mayor in office? Nah, why would they care?
You know, perhaps what’s even worse here is that there doesn’t appear to be any hue and cry from Johnstown’s citizens. Perhaps the proletariat prefer to have their commisars decided for them. I dunno.
Anyway. Back on topic. Mr. Freeman linked to a rather clear advisory opinion the heart of which can be seen in this screen shot. You screwed up, Johnstown. You chose secrecy over openness and that is NEVER the correct course of action:
The takeaway from all this is that elected and appointed officials need to ask questions of the state offices tasked with oversight of issues they are dealing with – especially the rare issues one might not be expected to have encountered before.
Now, there’s no reason to do anything about the issue this time. The vote to appoint was held in public session. The only thing an Article 78 lawsuit would accomplish is the waste of lot of perfectly good public money.
If anyone from Johnstown City Government actually reads my drivel, please note there’s no ‘bang a shoe on the pulpit’ intent here. I’d just like you to realize you were naughty and endeavour not to be naughty again.