The Inability of the Town Board to Address the Needs of the Disabled

Everyone knows that getting up to the second floor courtroom of the Chatham Town Court is difficult even for able people. It is nearly impossible for persons with any form of disability. As a long-time defense lawyer in that court over nearly 20 years I have witnessed great efforts disabled people make to attend court. You have not seen anything until you see a disabled veteran going up those marble steps on his knees.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II (1990) requires reasonable access be provided to all governmental activities. That requirement is nearly 30 years old. The Chatham Town Board clearly does not see this to be an important obligation for attention. Nothing has been done.

It is true that in 2015 the DeGroodt Board, with Maria Lull as a member, did have discussions with the Village, going to the point of getting construction estimates for various ways to provide an accessible courtroom. However, nothing has been done and the problem remains. Only recently a disabled woman who did get to the courtroom in the Tracy Hall could reportedly not get down to the first floor. She, it seems, had to be carried down by two court officers in a chair. Recently.  The problem remains, having been overtaken by such important matters as decibel levels, trash cans, and numbers of accessory buildings on property. Do these facts show that these Board members running for election Tuesday have our community interests at heart?

The ADA is not local law. Chatham must comply with it. It will take new and sympathetic blood on the Board to do so. I know this subject is on the minds of the candidates Collins, Pitkin, and Mesick. I recommend voting for them to rid our town of this scandal.

Bob Linville
Old Chatham

To All the Residents of Chatham

As we approach Election Day it is appropriate to consider what we have learned about the nature of the present Town Board and the three members seeking our continued support. Who they are and what their views are of the Town and us are now clear.

We have had considerable exposure to them, their dogged views of us, and the nature of the Town. Board members clearly regard our concerns about privacy, government intrusiveness into all aspects of life here, and the value of the Town as it is are wrong, outdated, and, resistant to a bright and better future.

Who Lull, Richardson, and Sperry are, and what they value, are embedded in the draft zoning plan they support. One cannot separate these three members from the features of the plan. To put it a little roughly “ the plan is them.” So, to set the plan aside they must be themselves set aside. They will never accept our oft-expressed outrage at so many of the plan’s terms.

The plan is an acknowledged  cobbleup of paragraphs from other smaller, tighter communities in this state and elsewhere. A more awkward cut- and- paste job cannot be easily be found. And it cost around $100,000 !  No wonder so many of us are outraged.

Back to the present board member candidates. It is clear they will continue to treat town citizens as they have, with ill-disguised impatience and no real response at all. Although they may live here and be a part of the community,  as elected officials they behave as though they only serve a small portion of that community. It is clear as day that they intend for Chatham to be another town entirely.

This means that if we want to preserve the rural nature of the Chatham we love, all three must be defeated Tuesday, and the three who are clearly Chatham people must be elected, for the ongoing welfare of us all. 

I hope and believe a large majority of our voters agree.

Vote for Donal Collins for Chatham Town Supervisor. Vote for Vance Pitkin and Abi Mesick for Chatham Town Council.

Bob Linville
Old Chatham, NY

Why is there so much resistance from the Board and their supporters?

I’ve been thinking about Van Calhoun’s level of rancor and it seems to me that some of the zoning recommendation committee members, and others who are on the Board feel they have done all this work, for all these years, have all this experience, and now who the hell are we, the inexperienced upstart ignorant rabble, to question the wisdom of what they have put together.  

Nevermind that the board members themselves acknowledged over 100 errors in the code.

The telling sentence in Van Calhoun’s recent diatribe, personally attacking Jeanne, for me is: “I watched them work through the problems of creating laws that our people needed but didn’t yet understand.”  It’s such a blatantly paternalistic statement that he knows better what We the People need, even if we don’t understand it.  

And then there’s “it certainly works on townspeople who do not search for the second sentence of a quote.”  Again he portrays an attitude that there are those who are fit to govern and then there are the townspeople.  

I think that is the same motivation that led Maria Lull to file the final draft with the County Planning Board before the changes were complete, and without telling the public.  They have humored us, put up with us, suffered us, and now they are just sick of us.  Van Calhoun thinks Donal, Abi and Vance are out of their depth and he “feels sorry” for them. Patronizing and downright bizarre.

I keep coming back to the code the Board was proud to pass on June 20th, until they acknowledged 100 plus anomalies in July.  The difference was the willingness of a number of ’ordinary’ citizens to read the proposed zoning – just read the thing and speak up about all the mistakes.  

No matter what the Election outcome, our town should be proud of what we have taken on.  This Board is out of line, and it’s time for We the People to put better representation in those seats.

They can’t keep resisting us if they aren’t running our town.

The only way to do that is to vote. There has never been a more important election in Chatham’s history.

Concerned Citizen
Old Chatham
November 1st

Why have the Chatham Town Board and Supervisor dismissed us?

By Jeanne Veillette Bowerman

This past April 5th, my father, Paul T. Veillette, passed away. I mention this not for sympathy, but because he was a powerful force on the importance of both common-sense zoning, and learning and respecting the history of our towns, and was also a long-time columnist for The Chatham Courier. In fact, he and my mother, Frances, were part of the original group of Chatham citizens who expressed the need for some form of reasonable land-use zoning back in the late 60s and early 70s. Another powerhouse was Judy Grunberg, a dear friend to our family and this entire town. She was like a sister to my mother. Judy also recently passed. It’s been a heartbreaking year for our little town.

On many sun-filled days in my childhood, I watched Judy and Paul Grunberg with my parents, huddled around a picnic table, passionately discussing local politics. How I wish I could ask my father for advice on the predicament Chatham is in today.

Before my father and Judy left this Earth, I promised them both that I would do everything in my power to stop this current Town Board from overreaching and forcing zoning onto us more fitting for Westchester than for our rural, farming community. I take that promise seriously.

For all who knew Dad and Judy, you know they were reasonable, intelligent, well-respected, generous, selfless, and unshakable. Those are qualities every public servant should have. How I wish those adjectives described our current Town Board.

At one Public Hearing last May, after months of attending Town Board meetings and pleading for changes to these proposed zoning laws, Judy stood strong and asked the Board, “I just want to know one thing. Are you listening to us?”

Now months later, it is crystal clear they were not.

In an effort to combat the lack of communication by the Town Board, many citizens now attend public meetings, and I personally film them via Facebook Live and actively post on social media. Something the Town Board could easily do themselves. But instead, they constantly direct people to the terribly inadequate Town website. I create websites as part of my job, and this is the worst site I have ever tried to navigate. Agendas are frequently not posted until an hour before the meeting starts, if at all. The minutes are absent from many meetings. Note: This is not the fault of the Town Clerk. Councilman Michael Richardson removed the website duties from her one night, in a fit, publicly humiliating the Clerk, who dutifully and respectfully serves our town. I’ve never witnessed such a disheartening public display of control and disrespect.

This “transparency” they speak of is lacking. Why aren’t they using the communication tools of the 21st century?

What’s most disturbing is the Town Board’s dismissal of the citizens. They are in bizarre denial that our voices matter. As if it never occurred to them that the almost 300 outraged people who showed up to the July 8th Tri-Village Firehouse zoning meeting, which is a record number by the way, are actual human beings with cares, jobs, financial worries, and a desire to have rights as property owners. We voted them in. Why wouldn’t we want to feel heard?

We long ago tired of Maria Lull and other Town Board members lamenting, “Where were you before? Why haven’t you joined committees?” Is there an expiration date on when a citizen can get involved? Are we supposed to come out of the womb and head straight to the Town Hall?

Yet this Town Board consistently slaps the citizens’ hands for not being involved sooner. Maybe it’s just us, but wouldn’t the more appropriate response be, “Welcome to the table! Thank you for wanting to participate. How can we work together to improve our zoning and town?”

After witnessing our outrage and submission of hundreds of zoning questions, Councilman Richardson finally declared a change of heart. He would no longer support the Board’s strategy of passing the law now and amending later. They decided to conduct Q&As with the citizens, with Councilman John Wapner promising these meetings would continue “until no more questions are asked or no one shows up.”

Bravo! The citizens showed up for every Q&A. We came with new questions each time, only able to ask a handful at a single session, with many more questions patiently waiting for the next Q&A. The Board identified over 90 issues as needing to be addressed. Over 90! Yet they were ready to pass this deficient law on June 20th.

The Q&As were productive, polite, and I’d even go as far as to say, they were fun. We enthusiastically worked together with the Town Board with great results.

Until the Q&As abruptly stopped.

What happened to Councilmen Richardson’s and Wapner’s promises? Why didn’t our Town Supervisor Maria Lull insist the Board keep their word? We were yet again dismissed.

And now, the Board has violated our trust once more. Just as they posted the “cleaned-up” red-lined version of the proposed zoning law on the town site, they simultaneously filed paperwork with the County Planning Board to review the proposed zoning laws, as is, which is a major step needed toward voting these laws in. The filing occurred on September 30th, yet the date Town Supervisor Maria Lull put on the signed document was October 2nd. How could that not make us suspicious of wrongdoing?

Most importantly, in taking this action, they violated Open Meeting Law. They are required by law to discuss issues like this in a public meeting. The potential of submitting the zoning law to the county was never put on any agenda, never listed in minutes, and not in the filming I do of every Board meeting. Therefore, this decision, and signing of the paperwork by our Town Supervisor Maria Lull, was done behind closed doors.

Again, that is a violation of Open Meeting Law.

If this was on the up-and-up, why was there zero mention of the intent to file, and also no mention of the completion of filing? They should have at least informed us at the October 3rd Board meeting.

Let’s make this clear, this was not an act of incompetence. This was a deliberate act of deception. Either the Town Board purposely acted in unison to do this, or Maria Lull acted on her own. Either way, it is the most disrespectful action this Board has taken to date. Just when you think they couldn’t hit a new low, they do.

I still hear and see Judy standing strong, asking, “Are you listening to us?” I am so deeply sorry, my dear Judy, they still are not.

Instead of listening, they immediately point fingers of blame at anyone who disagrees with them. My father told me, when you point one finger, four fingers are pointing back at you. The Board would be wise to remember that.

Dear Town Board, the blame for this zoning mess and divide in our community rests squarely on your shoulders. You choose to disrespect us instead of work with us. You could have kept doing Q&As. But instead, you chose to stop, distract, and do back-room meetings.

They further insulted us by not posting the County submission document under “Zoning,” instead burying it under “Government,” then under “Comprehensive Plan,” then further down at the bottom of the page. We only found it by accident.

I don’t care how many Letters to the Editor they and their friends write or how many back-patting mailers they send out, claiming “Truth Matters.” They have repeatedly betrayed our trust. The truth is, they will do it again. The first time you’re a victim; the second, a volunteer. I will not volunteer to support another four years of this disrespect.

My father and Judy may not walk among us today, but they will forever be a part of the heartbeat of our community. In fact, Judy told me many times that for the first time in her life, she would not be voting Democrat. How I wish she and my father had gotten the chance to vote on November 5th. How I wish they were still here to call out the Town Board for their gross lack of effective communication and their utter disregard for their citizens and Open Meeting Law.

They may not be here, but I am. I will not stop speaking up until we have new leadership who show Chatham citizens the respect we deserve. That leadership is Donal Collins, Vance Pitkin, and Abi Mesick.

Help Wanted: Town board members who represent the people they serve…

By Lisa Light

I can’t help but wonder why current leadership all over the world and even in small towns, seems to be polarizing its communities. I have never paid much attention to politics. I never had to…until now. To me, it seemed that things rarely change much regardless of who was in office locally or nationally. The changes that did occur, happened gradually and/or rarely affected me in small town America.

My bubble burst, however, when I heard about the drastic zoning laws that the Chatham Town Board was proposing this summer. I was forced to pull my head out of the sand and pay attention to what they were planning for our historically, live-and-let-live little town. It was jarring to discover that the future of our town is completely in the hands of 5 people – FIVE individuals have the power to significantly change the place where I have lived most of my life and where I have raised my family. How can that be? Shouldn’t we have more of a say and be able to vote when the board is proposing 226 pages of new laws?! The system hardly seems democratic or American! I guess it can, and has worked in the past, but the current Chatham Town Board is a far cry from being a fair representation of the Chatham community. In essence, it has become a bit like a dictatorship, because they are a small group that possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations.

A town board should be representative of its constituents. That is the only way a board can successfully govern a community fairly and democratically.

The current Chatham Town Board is 100% white, college educated and financially stable. Three are retired, only one is a woman and none of them were born or raised in Chatham or Columbia County. I do not know their political parties, however, it is truly NOT about what party the candidates belong to in local government, but where they fall on the issues that are important to their community. It is about balancing viewpoints and understanding the people you are serving.

We need to balance the board by voting in 3 new candidates who truly know what it is like to grow up, make a living and raise a family in Chatham today.

Donal Collins was raised on River Road in Chatham. He was closer to my brother’s age and played on his soccer team. I know my brother, always thought highly of him on and off the field. His parents were both teachers and farmers. His Mom, Pat Collins, worked for years at and helped make The Berry Farm what we know today. Donal is among the many Chatham High graduates who go off to see a bit of the world, earn a college degree and then realize that

Chatham is a great place to live. Donal is an interesting candidate because he has a mechanical engineering degree from Tulane University, he is a local farmer, and he works for a small business (Nancy Scans) in Chatham. Donal is a listener and a thinker and when he speaks he says very intelligent, well-thought out, practical ideas and people listen. I believe he will give his heart and soul to our town and he will lead with careful consideration of everyone’s needs and concerns. I am confident that he would make an excellent Town Supervisor.

Abi Mesick grew up in Austerlitz and went to Taconic Hills School. Her Dad, Dr. Barr Davis was a long time Chatham medical practitioner and our family doctor. Her Mom was his nurse, served for years as Austerlitz Town Justice, and together they raised 5 children. Although I went to a different school, I knew who Abi was. She made an impression because she was a quiet, petite, pretty tomboy who wore overalls, drove a pickup truck and could do jobs most girls didn’t attempt to do like climb and cut down trees! One day when I was 16 and a new driver, Abi came to my rescue. The hood of my car flew up and got stuck on my windshield. I was a pathetic, teenage girl that had no idea what to do. She pulled up behind me in her pickup truck, jumped out, grabbed a crowbar out of the back, marched straight to my car, unstuck the hood from my windshield, and then turned and left before I could say thank you. That is Abi. Strong, capable, ready to help and not looking for kudos or anything in return. She too left the area for New York City to study at Columbia University and she too returned to farm, start a business and raise a family in Chatham. She has experience in zoning as she assisted the Town of Austerlitz in passing their first zoning laws. She has demonstrated over the past several months that she will not take shortcuts when it comes to governing and leading our community into the future. She carefully read the proposed zoning and respectfully pointed out areas that needed revision and offered to help when she could. I am confident that Abi Mesick would do an excellent job representing women, children, farmers and business owners on the Chatham Town Board if she is elected.

I first met Vance Pitkin when I was planning the Millennial Celebration, Last Nite First Day, in Chatham in 1999. He was a great support in planning the celebration. He suggested and offered to make a beautiful, metal arch that we could erect in the Village green for revelers to walk through at the stroke of midnight as a symbol of walking from one century to the next. I have since enlisted him to refinish family heirlooms in his antique restoration shop and I have found that he runs his business with precision and integrity. He too is a farmer and lover of animals and the land as well, and would better represent the Chatham working community.

A town board should solicit community input, collaboration and communicate clearly, openly and thoroughly with its constituents especially when they want to make changes to the law. This results in buy-in from the community, ensures that the citizens are aware of the new laws, understand them and will comply. When board members want to change or amend laws, especially risky laws that could be detrimental to the future economy of the community, they need to remember that they are not expert policy and law makers. They were elected to serve their community. They need to thoroughly research, get advice from several experts (not just the ones they pay) and ask their constituents for input. There are several special interest groups in Columbia County who know what their members experience, need and want such as the Columbia County Economic Development Corp, The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, The Columbia County Board of Realtors, Columbia County Tourism Bureau, and the Chatham Agricultural Partnership.

I encourage Chatham citizens to vote for a board that better represents us on Nov. 5.

Your Local Vote Matters Most

Letter to the Editor:

Your vote in the upcoming election on November 5th  is of great importance.  One problem in the United States is that voters tend to focus on voting during presidential election years and pay less heed to local elections.  Elections at the local level are crucial and provide you with a chance to put individuals into office who will determine how your community will function and how your local needs will be met. 

Elected candidates will set and enforce local laws that have a great impact on your well- being.   In addition, local towns create budgets that affect how much money will be spent in maintaining roads, what programs your parks will offer and to whom and at what cost, funding for fire departments, providing police patrols, supporting agricultural concerns, and environmental issues.

In order to serve the needs of the community, the people must be listened to in a respectful and caring manner.  Communication, to be effective, has to be a process of listening, reflecting, and responding but then being willing to hear and respond to feedback.  All manner of business conducted at town meetings needs to be provided to all the constituents by many means.  Not all residents in Columbia County have internet or even access to the internet. 

In this upcoming election I urge you first of all to VOTE, second not to confuse national politics with the local issues that are impacting you first hand, and most importantly to vote for a team who will represent you by listening to your concerns, researching the issues and then acting in the best interest of the town at large and not a select few.  The team who will truly represent you in the Town of Chatham are Donal Collins for Supervisor, Abi Mesick for Town Board and Vance Pitkin for Town Board. Your vote counts!

Julia Veronezi

Town of Chatham

Response to Board’s Continued Lack of Communication by Ted Miner

The following was the statement, in full, by Ted Miner to the Chatham Town Board at the October 10, 2019 Board meeting, after learning of their violation of Open Meeting Law.

Bottom Feeding, Scum Sucking, Reprobates. The first words that came to mind as I digested “the Zoning Proposal forwarded to Columbia County for necessary review“.

Then I spent time reviewing my thoughts, conferring with those I respect, and remembering past associations.

I had sat every minute of the Q&A’s, as slowly many of my and others’ concerns were raised and dealt. I am today left with two “new” questions and one dramatic clarification. I understand others’ are left alike. I did not follow councilman Balcome’s advice “to send them on in”, as I had tried at the Tri-Village meeting and felt shorted. Besides, I do much better face to face where a dialog may take place.

Promised twice publicly, “The Q&A’s will end when the public stops coming/the questions are not new.”, I remained sure all would be addressed before the county submission. Previously scheduled to Oct. 8th, then to the 7th, finally to the 14th, (celebrated news to me at each designation), I was satisfied my concern was respected. Though on later thought, the dates’ movement may suggest other challenges when weighing the “ten days county acceptance window“.

The previous attempt to ratify the proposal included a board agenda identifying intent. Then the town board and planner Nan’s open in depth review and address of the county submission documents. Finally a public declaration of intent to file.

Though I had sat every minute of the town board meetings since June 21st I did not hear or see any intent to do the same. Not a sentence, not a word. Yet, it is done. Filed “received” Sept. 30th by Nan the planner, application signed Oct. 2nd by Maria Lull.

This came to my attention by another’s extreme diligence, I might say, “Luck”. The information is located under the website sidebar’s “Government” tab. Further, to the “Comprehensive Plan” tab. Finally located out of order, at the bottom of dated information. I, of course, had kept one eye on the dedicated “Zoning” information block. Obviously a mistake. This alone raised an eyebrow until I remembered the town board, while attempting communication solutions, had fallen well short of this fairly simple task.


I do not condone, “passage to then fix”. I do not accept, “time investment warrants passage”, nor, “always done this way”. I wonder, “I don’t know, somebody thought this was important”. More than once I heard, “should have been sent back to the Zoning Board, then addressed by a ZIC, finally to come to us, the town board”. I do not give out participation medals. I respect dedication and empathy.

That said, the foundational final insult is the undocumented action of the county submission. I accept no laws have been broken. I accept no collusion occurred. I accept the timing of the action was important to achieve the guaranteed decision process.

I accept the supervisor made the sole decision. signed her name, and had it filed by Nan the planner.

A concerted, deceitful action, meant to circumvent any opposition. Think June 20th.

I do not accept the insult of indifference to me or others. The “need to know” surely was then communicated to the board, yet there was no, (obviously warranted), zoning update at the Oct. 3rd board meeting. I and maybe all, of our town‘s unwashed, unimportant, certainly unaccountable, were not in the rarified circle. The disrespect to our highest concern, “Communication”, is unparalleled in my 37 year history of various boards’ participation and attendance. In my 45 year professional career, I have fired for far less. Even before I was held to a higher accountability.

“Openness” has become laughable.

Machiavelli suggested “The ruler governs only with the permission of the governed”.

Maria Lull, you do not have my permission.

The balance of the board…. Please remember you are my neighbors.

Ted Miner

At the end of his statement, Ted stood up, took off his “Truth Matters” button, handed it back to Maria Lull, and stated that he still stands by his words from weeks earlier that this group is not racist, but instead they are indeed elitist.

Dear Fellow Chatham Citizens… We Need New Blood

On June 20, 2019 a town meeting was held at the East Chatham firehouse.  To begin the meeting, each Councilperson on the Chatham Town Board declared, individually, one by one, declared their wholehearted endorsement of the new zoning code, as it was then written, and their intention to vote yes to passing the code into law.  Following that event, a number of citizens read the proposed code and voiced numerous objections, which were published on the Chatham United for Common Sense Zoning website.

On July 8th, another town meeting was held at the Tri-Village fire house.  Several hundred citizens attended.  They were asked to write their “questions”/issues on note cards.  The board was obliged to read what the citizens had written.  Having read the cards, the town website published a list of 91 issues that deserved further legal scrutiny and warranted changing.  They then published another list of dozens of issues which perhaps did not require legal review required clarification.

The board frequently mentions the fact that they have spent years working on revising the Chatham zoning code.  Yet in roughly 3 weeks concerned residents of Chatham came up with 91 legal inaccuracies, anomalies and questionable policies that forced the board to review the entire document.  Several council members even stated that they wished the had had this input earlier.  

We realize that town boards frequently do not write these codes, but until July 8th, we did not fully realize that the board had not even read the code.  Members of the community read the code.  Those board members running for re-election characterize themselves as “experienced.”  Yet they were grossly unaware of the contents of the proposed zoning code they were fully ready to enact into law on June 20thThis is not “experience,” this is incompetence.

Donal Collins, Abi Mesick and Vance Pitkin have read the code.  They, and those of us who have been involved in the zoning debates, are not against zoning.  We believe in common sense zoning that does not seek to legislate every conceivable situation that might arise for years to come.  That is why we have a Zoning Board of Appeals- to review new situations on an individual basis. 

We want to preserve Chatham’s rural character and charm, and to prevent thoughtless development and that would degrade the quality of life here.  But we also want Chatham to participate in the 21st century; we want to ensure that our businesses keep their doors open; we want to make Chatham a desirable destination for visitors; and we want to protect property values by familiarizing newcomers to all that Chatham offers.

To this end, Chatham needs visitors- visitors who frequent restaurants, theaters, farm operations, who vacation here, who buy a home here, who send their children to school here, who create the diversity we value here. 

We need to see that the Chatham Town Board addresses the concerns of all of its residents, not merely the few who would prefer to see nothing change. 

Chatham needs to be a vital living town.  We need new blood on the town board who understand the community they serve.

Response to the Incumbent Mailer

Local elections should not be partisan. They have nothing to do with national politics. They are personal, impacting our day-to-day lives in an intimate way. Having trust in our officials is critical for citizens to feel hopeful and confident in our leadership.

Bob Linville shares his concerns regarding a recent misleading mailing by the incumbents.

To the Residents of Chatham,

The Democrats’ mailer of August 2nd is audacious, pompous and misleading.  It demands a response to correct the perception it creates.

Claiming that an inherited budget deficit existed four years ago is wrong.  Monies moving around between accounts as the need dictates does not show a built-in deficit.  To talk of a structural deficit is to speak of something that is not there.  And what is a zero-based budget anyway?  Gobbledygook to impress. 

Further, there have always been reserve funds for different purposes in the Town.  Again, those funds are created and used as necessary.  They are then replenished as necessary.  Holding tax increases to 2% is not heroism.  It has always been done and is the state law.  There is no triumphant success here, just noisy back-patting.

Further, puffing about increasing the number of meetings, committees and participants is no more than gassing.  When is a meeting a product?  Anyone who has attended the Town Board or Committee meetings knows there is no real exchange of ideas leading to modification of decisions.  Questions are not answered except with promises of answers later. 

Only heavy pressure causes the Board to react at all.  When it does react, the response is grudging and often displays contempt for the citizen.  It is clear the Board members do not like or respect the citizens of Chatham or their well-being at all.  The proposed zoning law and its choking requirements make that clear.

Lastly, listing goals like business development, park improvements or less expensive housing is tiresome and obvious.  What has happened, really, in the last four years?  Everything is in the future and we are told member re-election is necessary for it.  I think not.

Bob Linville
Old Chatham

#TruthMatters #TrustMatters

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.


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.


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