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Fredonia OKs advisory team, trustees duties law

Fredonia’s trustees approved two changes to the village charter last week.

The first change alters the charter to add to Board of Trustees duties, “supervising and directing subordinate officers and employees of the village, and retaining contractors and employees of all lawful purposes relating to the operation and the administration of the village.”

The measure indicates that it does not curtail any powers of the mayor. Trustee James Lynden, a consistent critic of the law who was the only trustee to vote against it, said, “It doesn’t curtail any powers but it adds powers. The Board of Trustees should not be directing subordinate employees.”

The other charter change creates an advisory team of the village treasurer, clerk and personnel specialist, which is supposed to keep an eye on village business and report about it to elected officials.

Before the change came up for a vote, Trustee Evadawn Bashaw asked Village Attorney Melanie Beardsley to speak about it.

“It was not an intention to create a second board that, would in fact, make decisions,” the lawyer said. Beardsley said the board listened to concerns pointed out at a previous public hearing, and asked her to change the measure to clarify that it will be an advisory board that doesn’t make binding decisions.

Because the advisory board will not make final decisions on village business, it is not subject to state Open Meetings Law, said Beardsley.

Lynden also voted against this measure. He said it suggested the board has executive powers, not the mayor, and is therefore an unconstitutional removal of powers from the executive branch of the village government.

Bashaw called the advisory board “a step towards a strategic plan that sets a course for the village and sets a course that will survive no matter who’s elected.”

Trustee Scott Johnston said the new panel will just do all things the village administrator used to do, before that position got cut. “I just don’t understand all the ado about this,” he said.

Some of that ado came from Sam Drayo, the former village attorney who, like Lynden, has criticized the proposal for months.

Drayo stated, during a hearing on the advisory board law before the vote to pass it, “This proposed local law will seriously interfere with the important and normal daily functions of the advisory board members, unless these additional duties are performed overtime. The village clerk, treasurer and personnel specialist who make up this board are presently very busy with their existing charter duties, which are primary full-time and must come first.”

Drayo said the change has potential to cause conflicts between the advisory team and department heads. “The department heads have experience and are licensed and qualified under civil service rules and regulations to supervise their departments and make recommendations to the village board,” he said.

Drayo suggested the advisory board members could desire increased compensation. Unlike Beardsley, he thinks its meetings will be subject to Open Meetings Law.

The advisory board “would constitute another layer of village government which is not needed.. and would likely create problems, not solve them,” Drayo said.

Michelle Twichell also spoke at the hearing against the change, saying that whoever wins trustee positions in the upcoming election should make such decisions. She is running for trustee.

Her husband, Mark Twichell, also slammed the proposed change, before it was enacted.

“It would be a grievous mistake. The optics, again, aren’t good,” he said. “It appears to be a power grab by a group of the Board of Trustees. Unprecedented in village history, as far as I know.”

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