Who really closed the door to communication with the citizens of Chatham?

The Lull, Richardson, and Sperry camp sent out a mailer recently, full of chest-thumping claims that are inaccurate. We’ll just address one of those today, because our focus really is on zoning. This one just couldn’t go without addressing, however, because we have spent hours and hours on the town website, researching, and laughed out loud at the following claim…

CLAIM: When speaking of the current Town Board, the mailing claims, “the old closed-door backroom days are gone.”

Really? From our view, the communication just keeps getting worse instead of better. While they take one step forward, like creating a new Facebook page (which we applaud), they take two steps back by posting only 2 times since it launched – a post about flu shots, and another about a farm tour, yet no posts at all about meeting dates and times.

When looking at the principle communication device of the Town of Chatham’s Town Board, their own website, we discovered some illuminating lack of information and what a logical person might consider “closed-door backroom” behavior.

FACTS:

Let’s take this one committee at a time.

Citizens Finance & Planning Committee: Michael Richardson is the chair, and candidate Gabriella Sperry is a member, and there are no minutes posted since June 30, 2017, when Bob Balcom was the chair. Balcom seemed to post minutes. There is one set of minutes in 2017, and 7 minutes for 2016. But Richardson then took over as chair… and the minutes stopped. Not one in 2018. Not one in 2019. Yet we know they had meetings, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but not all.

Chatham Agricultural Partnership (CAP): Michael Richardson is the board member on this committee, and no minutes are posted on the website for any year. It is unclear if this committee has met recently. No information is available on the site. (But we do know that the current CAP sent a seething email to the Town Board, strongly objecting to the proposed zoning laws as not being agriculture friendly!)

Climate Smart Committee: Kevin Weldon is the board member on this committee, but according to the site, Councilwoman Landra Haber is also listed as a committee member. Note that she is no longer a councilwoman, but still listed as one on the website. No minutes posted. Yet, again, we know they had meetings, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but without agendas.

Communications Committee: Kevin Weldon is the chair. Maria Lull, as supervisor, is a de facto member of all committees, but has chosen to be listed as a member of this committee only. No minutes are posted on the site. Yet we know they had meetings, again, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but without agendas.

Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee: Bob Balcom is the chair. Like the Ag Committee, we aren’t sure if they have met in the past few years because nothing is available on the website and, per the board, they did not intend to review the Comprehensive Plan until the new zoning laws are passed… even though on page 6 of the current Comp Plan (adopted in 2009) it specifically states, “…it should be formally reviewed a minimum of every five to seven years to ensure that it remains a vital document to help guide Chatham in the future.”

Park and Recreation Committee: John Wapner and Kevin Weldon are the co-chairs. No minutes are posted. Yet, once again, we know they had meetings, because some of those meeting dates were on the calendar, but without agendas.

Roads Committee: John Wapner is the board member on that committee. The website shows they met twice in November, 2017, but not before or since. Information created by this committee was posted on the site, but no minutes or agendas.

Now… let’s look back at the only committee from the past administration that is posted on the current Town of Chatham website:

Zoning Implementation Committee: 2012 to 2015 from the previous administration (which, remember, the Democratic mailing defines as “closed-door”), has a total of 59 minutes posted: 2012, 15 minutes posted; 2013, 14 minutes posted; 2014, 17 minutes posted; 2015, 13 minutes posted. Again, 59 documents. Full disclosure and transparency!

Gee, that doesn’t seem very closed-door to us!

If one was to believe the website (which we’ve been assured by the current Town Board is the best place to find out what’s going on in our town), the current board is operating in a “closed-door backroom” manner.

Of course, despite the lack of information on the site, we know these committees indeed meet and are working hard. No one is disputing that. We truly appreciate the volunteers attending and helping the board find solutions to problems. But the lack of transparency as to agendas and minutes is alarming, leading a logical person to surmise the recent Lull, Richardson, Sperry mailing is misleading, at best, to imply they are governing with full transparency.

That doesn’t even go into how the agenda posted on the website for last Thursday’s board meeting was actually for a previous July 18th meeting instead of a new agenda for September 19th. Apparently, the real agenda wasn’t posted until an hour before the meeting.

IMPORTANT FACT, missing from the mailing: According to the New York State Open Meeting Law, minutes for any open meeting, including committee meetings, are to be posted no more than two weeks after the meeting date.

As of today, not only are the above committee meeting minutes mentioned still not posted, the last set of minutes posted for the Town Board meetings are from July 8, 2019.

Hmmm…

We’ve often heard excuses of “troubles with the new website,” or the new webmaster (who is a volunteer, appointed after Michael Richardson shamefully, wrongly, and publicly humiliated our Town Clerk) being behind on updating the site — but remember, he’s only a volunteer and has only been doing this a short time. The missing minutes go back years.

This is not the webmaster’s issue. Then or now. The information has to be provided to be posted. Provision is the direct responsibility of the committee/meeting chair. Who, of course, finally answers to the Town Supervisor. Start of issue, 2016. And still not addressed after continual exposure. Start of first term Supervisor Maria Lull, 2016.

Communication is lacking (ironically, the one committee her name is listed on as a member). The doors are indeed open at their meetings, but if they aren’t listed on the calendars and minutes aren’t provided, how can the citizens feel anything but a door slamming in their faces? They feel disrespected and dismissed. That is the truth.

Truth Matters… and sometimes it hurts to hear it.

#TrustMatters #TransparencyMatters #WhoClosedTheDoor

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