Saturday, March 10, 2007

SHOULD DISCUSS OF A & B BUDGET ISSUES BE HELD BEHIND CLOSED DOORS?

The Greenburgh Town Board held an executive session last Tuesday to discuss the Town Comptroller's draft report on the A & B budget allocations. The Board will also be discussing the draft report this coming Tuesday - at our next work session. I was asked not to release the draft report and am complying with the request.
The more I reflect on the matter the more troubled I am about discussing this important matter behind closed doors. This is a budget transfer issue ( a follow up to a state comptrollers letter). We are not in litigation regarding the issues contained in the letter. I do not believe that this matter can be discussed behind closed doors. I have asked for an opinion from the committee on open government.
I will urge the Board to open up our work session discussion to the public this Tuesday and also will urge the Board to release the draft report. We should also invite representatives of unincorporated Greenburgh civic associations and village officials to the meeting --and should invite their participation (questions/comments).

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are such a trouble-maker. It's just a draft.

Jim Lasser said...

Startlingly I find myself in agreement. Whether the report is a draft or not, discussions which are not specifically matters of current litigation or personnel are discussions which must be held in public. The meetings are subject to the same rules requiring notification and access as any other town meetings. Here is another opportunity for truly open government by broadcasting (both cable and internet) as well.

Anonymous said...

There are no provisions in the law that authorize Town Boards to discuss budget matters in secret.

Anonymous said...

To the Town Council the purpose of an exeutive session is so that they don't have to tell residents what they don't want them to know. I wonder what they are hatching this time.

Anonymous said...

Now I know why the Town Council doesn't want work sessions televised.

Anonymous said...

I pay taxes in this town ,I want to know what's going on before the deadline THE HELL WITH THE FALSE FOUR COUNCIL MEMBERS.This concern money,which many people are running out of.Since Sheehan has taken over,things are getting tougher,for Feiner,to make decisions,in favor of the public.Sheenhan,we want to be heard.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Feiner's playing fast and loose again.

A few months ago, Feiner blew a gasket when someone leaked a copy of the state comptroller's draft report on Feiner's WestHelp fiasco.

The report was a major embarrassment to Feiner and he wanted the draft kept confidential while he tried to get it changed.

Feiner said the leaking of the report was wrong because it was still a draft, subject to change, and because the state comptroller's office specifically asked that it not be circulated while the comptroller's staff sought input from town officials.

Why is the situation any different here?

Feiner's now got his hands on a town comptroller report on some critically important A and B budget issues that is, however, also still a draft.

And, like the state comptroller's report, the reason it's still in draft form is obvious: Before the release becomes final, the town comptroller is seeking input from town officials and, since a number of matters related to these issues are in litigation, presumably from the town attorney as well.

Feiner knows all this, but could care less.

He also knows the issue is hotly contested, with unincorporated area residents believing the report should recommend major shifts from the B to the A budgets, and the so-called village officials committee saying no.

The reason Feiner knows this is that he received letters from both groups, neither of which are confidential, explaining their respective positions.

Feiner could have made these letters public weeks ago, and the public would at least have been informed as to what the issues are.

But Feiner did not do so.

Now, however, because it suits his needs politically, he'd rather demand the report be released, even if it's in draft form, even without input from the town board and from counsel.

And Feiner being Feiner, you can be sure he never discussed the issue of releasing the draft in draft form with his colleagues on the town board, with the town attorney, or even with the town comptroller.

Town residents shouldn't be fooled by this self-serving behavior by Feiner.

This remains Reason No. 1 why government in Greenburgh remains as dysfunctional as it is.

Anonymous said...

Francis Sheehan - you may want the information kept secret. The law may not allow the information to be kept secret or discussions of the draft to be secret.

Michael Kolesar said...

Any email, draft, correspondence or other material is not privledged information unless it concerns litigation or personnel matters. That's the law in New York State and all of the elected offficials took oaths to uphold the laws of the State of New York. So what if it's a draft. POST THE ENTIRE DRAFT REPORT NOW!!!!

Anonymous said...

This isn't about Sheehan at all.

It's all about Feiner, and the mess he's made of the town budget.

Feiner's the town's chief financial officer. He's the one responsible by law for making sure the town complies with the law when it comes to preparing the A and B budgets. And Feiner's the one who, having charged unincorporated area residents exclusively for parks and recreational services open to the entire town, has embroiled the town in litigation -- with most major budgetary decisions to be decided now by the courts instead of our elected officials.

Earlier this year, the state comptroller issued an opinion on certain A and B budget matters. Feiner, thinking the opinion at long last favored village residents, seized on the report and ordered the town comptroller to come up with a plan -- within two weeks -- to implement the state comptroller's conclusions so that village residents could benefit at the expense of unincorporated area residents before the 2007 tax bills are mailed out on March 31.

But what Feiner and certain village "activists" didn't realize at first was that, in upholding the law, the state comptroller's report actually benefitted the unincorporated areas in a number of material respects.

So, if the recommendations were implemented, village residents would see not a decline in their town taxes, but perhaps a slight rise, and unincorporated area residents would see a slight decline.

As the town's chief financial officer, Feiner's job is to comply with the law by proposing changes to the town's budget so that adjustments can be made before the town's tax bills are mailed out at the end of this month.

But Feiner hasn't done his job.

Instead, Feiner is turning the town comptroller's draft report into a political football.

If the draft remains confidential as the town comptroller tries to figure out what to do, Feiner will blame the town council discussing budget issues behind closed doors.

If the draft is released, and it recommends shifting substantial amounts to the town-wide budget, Feiner will announce that he's against it -- thereby pandering once again to village voters who pay virtually nothing in town taxes anyway -- and force town council members to take a position on the same issue.

If town council takes the bait and does Feiner's job for him, Feiner will accuse them of being "anti-village."

Anonymous said...

The Town Council may have violated New York State law by discussing a draft report that should not be a secret document in executive session. Under New York State law the Town Council must disclose, prior to going into executive session, what will be discussed behind closed doors. There were a number of folks in attendance at the Council meeting this past Tuesday. Citizens were asked to leave and were never given any indication that the A & B budget matters would be discussed.
The Town Council is violating the open meetings law. Shame!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kolesar is being disingenous.

He knows full well that the draft report in this case will almost certainly embroil the town in further litigation -- this time from the vilages -- and that, for that reason, the town comptroller and town board members want to be sure before the report is made final that its conclusions are legally and factually sound.

Why does Kolesar have a problem with that?

Rumor has it that the "village officials committee" -- of which Kolesar was once a member -- has effectively threatened the town with a lawsuit if the town comptroller's draft recommendations are implemented.

Indeed, rumor also has it that the village "officials" are so incensed over the draft's recommendations that Feiner naively thought he could get the state comptroller's office to send representatives to the town to try to "mediate" the dispute. This after the town spent $25K last year in a failed attempt to mediate the current litigation.

If this latest budget dispute is headed to litigation, doesn't it make sense for the town comptroller to get legal advice and input from the town board before the report becomes final and is released?

Or are pro-village zealots like Kolesar so afraid that the report might not come out their way that they think their judgment should now be substituted for that of the town attorney and the town board?

If the little village of Ardsley had a draft report that raised legal issues that were almost certainly headed to litigation, would then-trustee Kolesar have been demanding that the report be released in draft before the board's conclusions had been finalized?

If he says says, that might explain why his colleagues on the Ardsley board had so little regard for him. If he says no, then why should the rules be any different for Greenburgh's town board?

Anonymous said...

The Town Council wanted to keep the report secret, make decisions on Tuesday in executive session, vote on the changes Wednesday at the public board meeting, send out amended tax bills in a fe week that reflect the changes,without allowing for a public discussion. Disgraceful!

Anonymous said...

This latest A/B controversy is entirely of Feiner's own making.

There is nothing on the agenda for this Wednesday's town board meeting about any A/B budget issues.

The agenda for last Tuesday's work session -- which Feiner and the town clerk are responsible for preparing -- said nothing about A/B budget issues.

The part about going into executive session referred only to "legal and personnel matters."
Again, no mention about A/B budget issues. Since Feiner is responsible for preparing the agenda for these work sessions, it's his job at least to identify the subject matters of the legal review.

If A/B matters were discussed, as he now says, then it's his responsibility for making sure that disclosure is made.

Feiner's post also conveys the false and misleading impression that the town council asked that he keep this s0-called A/B "draft" report confidential. Actually, he doesn't say who "asked" that he keep it confidential.

Rumor has it that the TOWN ATTORNEY asked Feiner to keep the report confidential because it contains the town attorney's legal advice.

Rumor also has it that Feiner has already leaked the report containing that legal advice to a certain pro-village advocate in order to allow him to wage a campaign to oppose the recommended changes, and that Feiner's demand that the report be released, even in draft form, is intended is a smokescreen for his having already released the report -- something he's been asked time and again not to do.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had a supervisor who just did his job, and complied with the law -- without always having to foment these needless disputes and engage in such partisan bickering?

Anonymous said...

The release of the draft WESTHELP report by the majority of the board was improper. It was intentionally released with falsified information in it. If I were operating under ethical standards, I would have a problem with this. But when the bully says it is OK, then I guess it is OK to go back to sleep at the dais.

This is why the majority of the board authorized the release of this report.

Rail on against Mr. Feiner, all you want.

The majority of the board took this improper action and they should be ashamed of themselves. Blame Mr. Feiner all you want in your typical old magician's misdirection gag. You remember "Nothing up my sleeve” stuff. FACT: Majority of Town Board acted unethically on this one. Mr. Feiner, is no where near the crime scene on this one folks.

Message to the so-called majority : Hide in the dark corners and make believe that you are the ruling class.

NEWS FLASH: You represent the people that elected you, not your own grand political (higher) ambitions.

Oh, in the real world, when you do something bad, consequences happen. The writer of the newspaper article containing the intentionally inaccurate and biased "leaked" draft report is no longer employed.

What will be the consequence for our Shakespearean comedy players that we get see "act" so improperly while "representing" the Town's interests? I have some suggestions.

Town Board members feel free to weigh in anonymously!

Anonymous said...

Encouraged by Feiner, the thugs and bullies from Mayfair Knollwood have no shame when it comes to smearing those with whom they disagree.

Now they gleefully take credit for supposedly causing the brave Journal News reporter, David McKay Wilson, who first exposed the abusive ways in which Valhalla was squandering Greenburgh's tax dollars -- and also reported on the leaked draft state comptroller's report -- to lose his job.

In fact, Mr. Wilson appears to be alive and well at the Journal News, with several important stories to his credit in today's edition alone.

In like manner (using Feiner-sanctioned innuendo and slime), the thugs and bullies also blame the Town Council for supposedly having leaked the draft WestHelp report.

They state as "fact" that a majority of the town board took this action.

In fact, there is not a shred of evidence whatsoever that anyone from the town council had any hand in this at all.

Meanwhile, as is evident from the final report, Feiner himself had previously leaked the draft to his political supporters in Mayfair Knollwood, to officials at the Valhalla School District, and to Feiner's own "lawyer" from Mayfair Knollwood who was subsequently arrested and charged with stealing money from clients.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had a supervisor who would stand up to these thugs and bullies instead of coddling them as he does?

Anonymous said...

Jeeze, the only thing that you didn't refute yet is the Young Kaminer self acknowledged threats and any implications that Supervisor Feiner may have had some involvement with the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby.

If the “majority” of the Town Board feels maligned by the actions of their members in the release of a knowingly inaccurate draft report, where is the call to Town Council Lewis for an investigation?

Or is it that you only like those $20,000 investigations?

Chirp, chirp. Yes ladies and gentlemen, you will only hear the sounds of silence and the birds on this one.

Where is the righteous indignation from the silent majority over the release of a knowingly inaccurate report that the NY State Controller clearly notified them that it was not to be released? Giving it to their flunky at the newspaper, who also is complicit in this improper action? Do ethics mean anything to you all?

Chirp, chip......ahhh the sounds of silence yet again.

Go to sleep my friends and hope too that this issue will also fade from our memories.

Paul Feiner said...

I want to state, on the record, that I have not shared, shown or e mailed the draft report to anyone. I did advise community activists from the unincorporated section of Greenburgh and officials in the villages that a draft report was presented to the Town Board by the Town Comptroller. They were not told or shown the details of the report.
The decision we ultimately make must be based on the law. All sides (village and unincorporated Greenburgh) should have a reasonable opportunity to review the recommendations of the town comptroller and to comment on these recommendations - before the Town Board takes any action.
There is no need for name calling.

Anonymous said...

Young Kaminer did indeed threaten the Superintendent, and did tell others who told him to do it.

Despite the many mentions of this in public town meetings, there has never once been a public denial of this fact.

Anonymous said...

Feiner just can't seem to get things right.

There's a huge difference between not giving the public a chance to comment on actions the Town Board may or may not take on A and B budget matters -- which no one is proposing be done -- and what Feiner wants to do, which is to release a document which is still in draft form, which contains privileged legal advice, and which the Town Attory asked Feiner not to disclose.

So what has Feiner done?

He says that this time (as opposed to prior times) he hasn't shared, shown or e-mailed the draft report to anyone. But he nevertheless admits that he tipped off certain unincorporated area "activists" and certain village officials to the draft report's existence.

So, who were these "activists" that he told? Why are we not told who they are and why did Feiner choose to tell them and not others?

Given Feiner's history here of siding with the villages on all these disputes no matter what the law provides, of appointing a committee chaired by a pro-village advocate who's leading efforts in court among the villages to oppose enforcement of the rights of the town's unincorporated areas, of successfully lobbying each of the village boards to appropriate funds to pay for outside counsel to fight the unincorporated areas, of doing whatever he could to torpedo the town's attempt to get these disputes resolved through professional mediation -- the chances that Feiner also tipped off the leaders of any unincorporated area civic associations is pretty remote.

And if Feiner wants this matter to be discussed at Tuesday's work session, chances are pretty good that leaders of unincorporated area civic associations haven't been tipped off to that at all.

No, rather than try to help resolve matters, which he's shown no willingness to do, Feiner just seems to relish making matters worse.

Anonymous said...

The councilperson who I assume wrote the previous e mail just doesn't get it. The draft report should be public. The discussion should be open. There is no legal basis to keep the information out of the hands of the community.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:57 says that the draft contains privileged legal advice. Nonsense. The draft report is from the Comptroller, not from the Town Attorney. It contains the Comptroller's recommendations, not any legal advice.

With this Town Council everything is secret.

Anonymous said...

Leave it to Feiner to turn legitimate discussion over A and B issues into a circus.

If Feiner wants the draft report released, he should raise the issue with the Town Council at Tuesday's work session, and together they could decide whether it should be released in draft or made final and then released.

If members of the public want the report to be released in draft form irrespective of what Feiner or the Town Council does, our recourse is to file a FOIL request or, alternatively, wait for the report to become final.

Rather than lay out these options in a fair and even-handed manner, Feiner instead creates the false and misleading impression that the Town Council somehow wants this issue handled behind closed doors.

The irony is that these particular A/B issues have thus far been handled behind closed doors by Feiner himself, meeting and communicating directly with his own select group of unincorporated area residents and his own select group of village officials (or their stand-in).

Wouldn't it be nice if the town had a supervisor who could act as an honest broker in these matters?

Anonymous said...

There goes bull dog Sheehan again,doing some investigation into what is not a secret.He is making thing tougher to deal with.HOW COULD A MAN WHO SAYS THAT HE IS A PROFESSOR ,BE SO STUPID.He should have stayed out of politics.THIS POSITION IS FOR SOMEONE ELSE,OTHER THAN SHEEHAN.Leave the big jobs to real not to a child.THE DRAFT IS NOT A SECRET....maybe he is ready to make some changes on it,and you do know that the rest of the board will bow down to him.WHAT A PITY.

Anonymous said...

There goes bull dog Sheehan again,doing some investigation into what is not a secret.He is making thing tougher to deal with.HOW COULD A MAN WHO SAYS THAT HE IS A PROFESSOR ,BE SO STUPID.He should have stayed out of politics.THIS POSITION IS FOR SOMEONE ELSE,OTHER THAN SHEEHAN.Leave the big jobs to real not to a child.THE DRAFT IS NOT A SECRET....maybe he is ready to make some changes on it,and you do know that the rest of the board will bow down to him.WHAT A PITY.

Anonymous said...

There goes bull dog Sheehan again,doing some investigation into what is not a secret.He is making thing tougher to deal with.HOW COULD A MAN WHO SAYS THAT HE IS A PROFESSOR ,BE SO STUPID.He should have stayed out of politics.THIS POSITION IS FOR SOMEONE ELSE,OTHER THAN SHEEHAN.Leave the big jobs to real not to a child.THE DRAFT IS NOT A SECRET....maybe he is ready to make some changes on it,and you do know that the rest of the board will bow down to him.WHAT A PITY.

Anonymous said...

I think you left the word MAN out in the comment before this.You are one hundred percent right.Children should be seen and not heard.

Anonymous said...

"Feiner just seems to relish making matters worse."

I don't think he relishes in it as much as he just doesn't know any better. He'll be gone soon enough, and it'll be nice in November to elect a professional, educated manager with corporate experience, who understands his job description.

Anonymous said...

"it'll be nice in November to elect a professional, educated manager with corporate experience, who understands his job description."

If you think Terry Williams fits that description, then I've got a bridge I would like to sell you!

Opening for Professional Manager? said...

The town needs professional management not a full time supervisor who spends all his waking hours running everyday for re-election because he has no other employment opportunities (all of the villages are run day to day by a village manager). Hopefully the next supervisor will see that is the direction the town should move toward.

Anonymous said...

What professional manger of any level of competency would sign on to this job with the existing composition of the town board? Alternatively, they would need to be really desperate. Watch the town board videos.

The Kaminer experiment has been a failure and has merely gone about increasing the costs of government with absolutely no return on the investment.

A professional manager would likely wind up with some costly settlement due to some bad behaving board members with ulterior motives.

Anonymous said...

The taxpayers have a right to know what's going on. Greenburgh decisions are now being made behind closed doors. This is sad.

Anonymous said...

For the past sixteen years that he's been in office, Feiner's been brokering backroom deals.

The town's acquisition of Taxter Ridge was a backroom deal. Feiner publicly said the purchase cost $10.9 million; in fact, he gave the Moonies an additional $3 million in tax breaks without which they wouldn't have done the deal.

Feiner never came clean with the public about this.

The WestHelp deals with Valhalla, the Mayfair Knollwood Civic Association, and the Fairview Fire District were all Feiner-led backroom deals.

The outrage is that Feiner represented that these deals were each preceded by "public hearings." In fact, the Town never held any public hearing on these illegal transactions.

Greenburgh taxpayers got shafted in each of these backroom deals.

Isn't it time we realized we can't afford Feiner anymore?

Anonymous said...

"The WestHelp deals with Valhalla, the Mayfair Knollwood Civic Association, and the Fairview Fire District were all Feiner-led backroom deals."

Unless my memory fails me, I have absolutely no rememberance of Bass, Jutner & Barnes being held hostage at those discussions and meetings with guns to their heads.

Do you have some other version of your opinion of the story that you feel compelled to share? The one thing you can not change however is the facts.

Bass, Jutner & Barnes all supported the deals and were all awake and breathing at that time.

Anonymous said...

Hey, didn't Bass, Juettner & Barnes also vote for Taxter Ridge? Didn't they also approve the budget allocation?

Anonymous said...

They probably did, it's just that they probably don't remember.

Anonymous said...

and where all the Town employess that are supposed to vet these items, like controllers and town attorny?

how many more will feiner fire, or give great severance packages to

Anonymous said...

Will a budget discussion include:

1. The return of the VSD money;

2. The sale of the waterwheel property?

ALLYMARIA said...

To Anonymous and Jim Lasser:
You both spend a great deal of time posting negative comments about Paul Feiner- you must like to see yourself write... He is open, accessible, transparent and cares about his constituents -- unlike the town board who files ridiculous law suits, closes the door to public information and communication and could care a fig about its constituents. Why don't you spend your time more wisely??