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Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 8, 2009
Old wounds, new initiatives in Westerlo
By Zach Simeone
WESTERLO After swearing in its second Republican member in 70 years, the town board got down to business for the New Year on Tuesday, though old wounds were briefly re-opened.
At 6 p.m. Clinton “Jack” Milner was sworn into office, and became the town board’s only non-Democratic member. In a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1, Milner ran on the GOP line, backed by a party that had been defunct.
At last month’s meeting, the town board tasked Kim Slingerland, clerk to the supervisor, and former Councilwoman Susan Walter with building the town’s website. After hearing from Slingerland that she had purchased several domain names for the town, Milner prompted the board to consider using the www.westerlo.us domain name, previously registered by Leonard Laub, in the development of the new town website.
The board then voted to buy the domain from Laub.
After purchasing the domain name, Laub had been refused authorization by the town board to further pursue the building of a town website.
“At the time,” Supervisor Richard Rapp said yesterday, “he talked about buying it, and town board members said they wanted to have their say on it. I think they want to take their time, and the town board thought that they should have someone else there working on it, not just Leonard,” he said.
The board also scheduled a meeting for Monday, Jan. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at which the town board will hold a public discussion of the water district rates, and further discuss filling the position of former town justice Joseph Dean. Rapp read into record a note from the town to Dean, thanking him for his years of service.
Milner requested that the Jan. 19 meeting include a public hearing on cable service in the town. “There’re a lot of disgruntled people in town about the cable,” Milner said. “A lot of people feel that they didn’t get their cable when they should have.”
Milner and the rest of the board eventually agreed that the discussion on cable service should be saved for a later date.
When the board opened up the floor for public discussion at the end of the meeting, the topic of Leonard Laub’s ouster from the planning board in April re-emerged.
Laub was forced to leave the planning board after refusing to fill out a Civil Service application. Laub turned down the pay he would have received for his position as planning board chairman, asking that the money instead go towards town use. The town board made a resolution requiring him to fill out the application, but again, he refused, and was removed from his post.
Milner quit his post on the planning board in protest of Laub’s ouster and announced his run for town board. After his paperwork in petitioning for the Democratic line was successfully challenged by Westerlo’s Democrats, Milner ran on the Republican line, backed by a new town GOP committee headed by Laub’s wife, Bonnie Kohl-Laub.
“I talked to Albany County Civil Service,” said Kim Slingerland, “and I also went to a conference, and there was a representative from the New York State Civil Service Department there…I specifically brought this up to the New York State representative, and they told me that every person who is in a paid position in a municipality is a Civil Service employee, and they do have to fill out a civil service application, whether they accept the pay or not,” she said.
Milner replied, “I called up about five or six lawyers, and they all disagree with you, Kim.”
The state comptroller’s office told The Enterprise that Laub’s only requirement, should he wish to serve on the board without receiving his intended pay, was to take the oath of office, which he did.
A spokesman for the New York State Department of Civil Service said the post of planning board chairman is “typically unclassified,” and outside of the Civil Service system, meaning Laub would not have to file an application. But, he said, individual counties in New York are empowered to classify positions and decide “where they fit.”
A spokesman for the Albany County Department of Civil Service said, although there is no test for the planning board chairman, it is a Civil Service title, and Laub would have to fill out a form.
“You know,” Councilman Edward Rash added, “I don’t think it’s a matter of which government body says it’s necessary or not. We asked for it…He didn’t want to do it. So, fine, but if it’s something that we ask to be done and that we ask that it be a requirement, that should be sufficient, no matter whether it’s required by state or county or not,” he said.
On the subject of Laub’s expulsion from the planning board, Rash said, “It’s more or less that a line was drawn in the sand over an item, and the board acted on it.”
Laub, also present at Tuesday night’s meeting, said, “The line that was drawn in the sand was a law that was passed for exactly one person me…the state comptroller’s office provided the opinion, which I provided in writing, with names and telephone numbers, to the town,” he said. “The response of the town was to pass a law, which created a need within this town, separate from any other town in the state…Prior to that law, there was no such necessity.”
Rash said, “You can’t have one person out of the whole town” who is unwilling to fill out a civil service form.
“You threw the gauntlet down, Leonard,” Rash said. “You work with the Albany County Department of Planning in that position, you work with the New York State Department of Transportation…and in the position that you had, to make decisions and such for the [comprehensive] plan, we just thought it would be a lot more comfortable to have you as a civil service employee.”
He added, “You don’t have to agree with us. We can make our own town laws.”
The town’s elected and appointed officials and boards are as follows:
Town Board: Richard Rapp (supervisor), Ed Rash, R. Gregory Zeh, Robert Snyder, and Clinton J. Milner (councilmen);
Consultant: Robert E. Fisher;
Town Clerk and Registrar of Vital Statistics: Gertrude A. Smith (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Deputy Registrar and Deputy Town Clerk: Kathleen Spinnato (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Zoning Administrator: Ed Lawson (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Superintendent of Highways: John Nevins;
Deputy Code Enforcement Officer: Bruce F. Bunzey (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Court Clerk: Florence Derry (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Deputy Supervisors: Edward A. Rash and R. Gregory Zeh (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Town Attorney: Aline D. Galgay (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Town Historian: Robert M. Duchow (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Dog-Control Officer: Jody Ostrander (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Assistant Dog Control Officer: William Scott III (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Zoning Board Clerk and Planning Board Clerk: Rita Perciballi (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Assessor’s Clerk: Claire Marshall (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Youth Council Coordinator: Mary Jane Snyder-Araldi (term expires Dec. 31, 2009);
Planning Board: Andrew Brick (chairman, board term expires Dec. 31, 2012), Gerald Boone (term expires Dec. 31, 2009), Anthony Sherman (term expires Dec. 31, 2013), Kristen Slaver (term expires Dec. 31, 2010), and Richard Kurylo (term expires Dec. 31, 2011);
Board of Assessment Review: Dawn Belarge (term expires Sept. 30, 2012), Eugene Coogan (term expires Sept. 30, 2011), and Suzanne Rash (term expires Sept. 30, 2013);
Zoning Board of Appeals: Gail Snyder (chairperson, board term expires Dec. 31, 2012), Ogden Saddlemire (term expires Dec. 31, 2013), Virginia Mangold (term expires Dec. 31, 2012), Gerald Woodruff (term expires Dec. 31, 2010), and Wilfred VanIderstine (term expires Dec. 31, 2012); and
Official Town Newspapers: The Altamont Enterprise.