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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 2, 2011
Will absences lead to removal
By Saranac Hale Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND Three planning board members have triggered a review since they were absent from meetings at least three times in 2010.
Last year, the town board adopted a law allowing it to remove planning board members if they missed three or more of the monthly meetings from January to December.
Councilman Douglas LaGrange, who introduced the bill, said when it was passed that he thought it was important because of board members’ poor attendance at meetings and not keeping up with the state’s training requirements. Local Law 3 of 2010 also enforces New York State Town Law, stating that the town board can remove a planning board member who has not maintained the requisite training credits.
In each case, the town board has to hold a public hearing before taking action. Councilman Daniel Mackay, who is a liaison to the planning board, said that he and LaGrange, also a liaison to the planning board, will be available to meet with the three members on June 6 before reporting to the rest of the town board at its meeting on June 8, at which point the town board will decide whether or not to proceed with a public hearing.
If they get no sufficient explanation, either by letter or in person, Mackay said, he expects that the town board will schedule a public hearing.
As requested, on April 15 Planning Board Chairman Charles Voss submitted a report on planning board members’ compliance with Local Law 3 Robert Smith and Lorraine Tuzzolo each missed four meetings and Beth Stewart missed three meetings in the 2010 calendar year.
Asked if the law would be applicable, since it wasn’t passed until May 26, 2010, Mackay said, “We believe it is.” He noted that the discussion of the law preceded its adoption by a significant length of time and the planning board was asked to comment formally on the bill. Also, he said, part of the local law only buttresses an already enacted state law, regarding training.
The same three members earned no education credits in 2009 and neither Smith nor Tuzzolo earned credits in 2010, according to the report, which is based on records kept by the town’s building department.
Tuzzolo said last week that she always notifies the chairman or Town Hall if she is unable to attend a meeting. Planning board members shouldn’t be penalized if there is a valid reason that they can’t attend, she said.
“We’ve lost a very good planning board member because of the ethics” law, Tuzzolo said, referring to Cynthia Elliott, a surveyor who resigned before an ethics law took effect that would have barred her from representing clients in the building department. The town board named Jo Ann Davies, the longtime alternate, to take Elliott’s place on the planning board.
Smith doesn’t think three absences is a problem, but more than six would be. “Unfortunately, I travel a lot,” he said. Smith plans to stay on the board, although his term will be up at the end of December and it won’t be filled again. The same law that governs attendance, Local Law 3, reduced the size of the planning board from seven members to five. At the beginning of this year, Kevin Kroencke’s expired term was not filled and after Smith’s term isn’t filled the board will be down to five members.
Setting the number of allowable absences below three is fine, Smith said, adding, “My problem is with decreasing the number of planning board members.” New Scotland is anti-business, he said, and the board should work on enticing businesses to come to the town.
Beth Stewart did not return calls for comment.
In an additional report on May 16, Voss wrote to the town board, “I am compelled to inform you as per Local Law 3 of 2010 that current Planning Board member Mrs. Elizabeth (Beth) Stewart has now missed three (3) out of five (5) regularly scheduled Town of New Scotland Planning Board meetings this calendar year (2011).”
According to the letter, she missed the first because of a work commitment, the second because of illness, and the third because of injury.
Attached to the May letter is an e-mail that Voss wrote to Stewart, emphasizing the responsibilities of the board, in which he wrote, “In addition, unlike many planning boards around the region, we are compensated for our time by the tax payers of New Scotland.”