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Fredonia tables laws; Drayo spars with trustees

The Fredonia Board of Trustees tabled two laws for public hearings Monday — a measure that would make changes to the code for rental properties and a move to remove all mentions of the former village administrator position from Fredonia’s laws. The two items will both go to a vote at the board’s Sept. 9 meeting, after the hearings on them.

Before the tablings, former Village Attorney Sam Drayo continued his campaign of criticism of Mayor Athanasia Landis’ administration for its alleged failure to follow village and state laws. However, he got cut off because his time for speaking was up, a move enforced by Trustee and Deputy Mayor James Lynden, a Landis ally running the meeting in her absence.

Trustee Douglas Essek wondered why there was a law on the table to alter the administrator language in the first place. “Who desired this?” he asked.

“I did,” said Trustee Michael Barris. “And so did I,” Lynden added.

Village Attorney Dan Gard said that a 2016 local law added the word “administrator” to village code in several places, and the new law is intended to remove all mentions of the position, abolished by trustees in 2018. “I did search the code several times — I think I’ve got them all,” he said.

When Lynden opened the floor to public comments, Drayo made clear his displeasure with the way village officials are handling the proposals.

“These resolutions should be in their final form, read by the Board of Trustees, and digested,” Drayo said. “I don’t think that’s been done because this just came out in the last couple days. Yet you’re calling for a public hearing on something that isn’t in its final form, that the board hasn’t agreed to.”

“That would be incorrect. The law to the best of our knowledge is in final form,” Gard said. Drayo disagreed.

The former village attorney then started directly addressing a letter Landis read at the Aug. 12 meeting, which was also printed in the OBSERVER Aug. 18. As he was beginning to address points Landis made which he disagrees with, Lynden interrupted him and requested that he make comments that are directed to the mayor when she is present.

“I understand and would be glad to present this again… (but) if she’s not here, that’s not my problem,” Drayo said. “You understand, you’ve got a motion here I need to speak to.”

Lynden allowed him to continue, but Drayo didn’t get very far after noting he might take more than the three minutes that are supposed to be granted to each speaker.

“His three minutes is basically up, so it’s your decision,” Village Clerk Annemarie Johnston said to trustees.

“Limit to three minutes,” Barris said.

“This is a very important matter … it concerns a position in the village which is probably the most important position,” Drayo said. “Sometimes it takes more than three minutes to explain things.”

“Limit it to three minutes,” Barris said.

Essek wondered if anyone else wanted to speak, and Lynden said Drayo’s time had extended past three minutes. After Dave Fridmann made a short comment praising the recent Farm Festival, Lynden tried to close the public comments portion of the meeting.

“Hold on here,” Essek said. “I wanted him to proceed so I didn’t hold him up … I’d like to continue,” Drayo said. Lynden repeated that he wanted to hold to the board’s rules of order allowing three minutes for each audience member to speak.

After several members of the audience stood up and offered to give Drayo their three minutes, Lynden huddled briefly with Gard, then stated that since he was now speaking on behalf of a group, he would get five minutes to talk.

Drayo said Landis’s assertion that power was transferred from the Board of Trustees to the administrator was wrong. “The board continued to approve contracts, hire people, make rules and regulations and laws, (and) set policy for the village. None of that was transferred to the village administrator,” he said.

He added that Landis was incorrect when she said an administrator had to be voted on by a public referendum, and that she was misinterpreting an 1897 state law that she said gave her duties beyond what is outlined in the village charter.

Five minutes and 38 seconds after he began speaking again, Johnston said, “The five minutes are up, Sam, I’m sorry.”

“I’d like to continue this, this is important,” Drayo said.

“Then write a letter to the OBSERVER,” Barris said.

“You’ve had your personal time, you’ve had time apportioned for a group. Thank you very much,” Lynden said.

“That’s not being open-minded, Mr. Chair,” Drayo said, as Lynden declared the public comments portion of the meeting closed.

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