Town Board Meeting: Teamsters, zoning, and who is the Supervisor?
Monday night’s Monroe Town Board meeting was a whirlwind of activity, including further discussion of zoning, unionizing town employees as Teamsters, and a debate over just who is the Monroe Supervisor when both the “Acting” Supervisor and the “Elected” Supervisor both appear to play the part. In short, another typical and comical Monroe Town Board meeting.
First, let’s get to the week that was and still is, beginning with the saga of “Winston”. We learned a lesson by legal decision when Village of Monroe Justice Lezak tossed out any and all remaining charges against this beautiful and placid Labrador Retriever (see picture). Owner Chris Bice feels vindicated by the decision, which was backed by a grass-roots campaign and signatures of those from around the village to persuade the Justice that the charges be dropped.
Lezak ruled that Town of Monroe Dog Control Officer (DCO) Edwin Diaz had no authority or jurisdiction in the Village of Monroe, and that the animal was to be released to its owner without charges or fees immediately. For those who would like to meet and greet the dog that has gained so much attention, an event is scheduled at Baroque Antiques at the corner of Lakes Road and Route 17M on December 24th between 12 and 3 PM. All are invited to celebrate his freedom from 39-days in DCO Diaz’ captivity.
Who’s the real Supervisor?
Without further ado, Monday’s scheduled Town Board meeting was fraught with a few laughs, and the return of Town Supervisor Harley Doles, who has apparently made a miraculous recovery from his health issues and a previously announced leave-of-absence. However, the Town Board meeting was alternately run by Monroe Supervisor Doles and “Acting” Supervisor Gerard McQuade. It was like watching a play with both the lead actor and his understudy both playing the same role. At least for the comic effect pointed out by Ric Colon, and argued by lame-duck councilman Dan Burke.
Doles barely had voice and sounded stressed and in poor health.
(Video courtesy of United Monroe)
First order of business was the signature and approval of a new agreement to unionize town employees to a labor contract with — in typical Harley Doles fashion — the Teamsters. While the contract may have been negotiated in good faith by union officials, the Monroe Supervisor went above and beyond to ensure it wasn’t handled in good faith. Councilmen other than Burke and McQuade were given the contract just 24-hours prior to the scheduled vote, resulting in the appearance of rushing this contract in place before the seating of new council members.
Councilman Colon argued that the secretive nature and selective contract negotiation was underhanded, and that no other union was considered. McWatters argued that this was partially negotiated in Attorney-Client session, after midnight, in violation of Open Meetings Law, and commented about the crowded calendar with rushed items being crammed in before year-end. Colon further admonished the other board members that he would bring the matter to the County ethics committee if action was taken. Neither Colon nor McWatters supported the agreement.
McQuade argued that the councilmen had the contract “for the weekend”.
During the town board meeting, it was identified that a plurality of town employees were not notified of the negotiation and representation. One long-term employee tendered their resignation as a result. McQuade continued to play his “I’m the victim” act when criticized on his lack of transparency. He later attempted to throw Jerry Ebert, the labor representative from Teamsters Local #445, under the bus by asking for his comments. He then withdrew the request claiming the citizens “did not want to listen”. Surprisingly, Comptroller Peter Martin also expressed concerns over contract compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the lack of analysis of budget impact.
After clarifications, Judge Milligram identified the discriminatory nature of the agreement.
Meanwhile, all of this circumvents civil-service requirements, something the Monroe Town Board has tried repeatedly.
Chapter 57 Zoning
For two weeks now, the town has run an advertisement in The Photo News, expressing to citizens that they contact their town board members and urged them to vote “yes” on the changes to zoning laws. When mentioned at this town board meeting, Councilman McWatters requested that his name be removed from these ads. Several people questioned why the town is publishing propaganda, and who is funding these. Councilman McQuade was dismissive in his response, stating “if you call that propaganda, I know what I call you.”
Really, Gerry? Classy (not). Apparently, it’s fine if Gerry supports something, but not OK if people raise objections to it. So we already know a great name for it: Fascism.
Meanwhile, the issue of “rules of conduct & civility” was mentioned as an Attorney-Client item for review. If this sounds familiar, it is. The town board has attempted to enforce rules of civility that effectively remove any comment, as well as threatens to remove violators from town board meetings. Remember that “fascism” comment from earlier? Here we go again.
Meanwhile, back to Harley…
We don’t know whether to be happy that Harley Doles was under the weather (or sleeping) and not commenting, or to be annoyed that the substitute was perhaps several times worse and lacked any maturity. We’ve come to expect that Gerry McQuade will goad residents with epithets or passive-aggressive comments. This meeting was no different, but it’s not acceptable conduct for anything other than a schoolyard bully. Behind the ropes and on the dais with guards in attendance, Mr. McQuade can act with bravado. But we know that Mr. McQuade is exceptionally timid and fearful of any direct confrontation. At least once during this town board meeting, he suggested that something be handled outside the meeting.
Sure, Gerry. Be careful what you ask for.
It almost makes us long for having Harley back.
We said “almost“. That being said, not quite.