Fultonville mayor rails against his trustees
Tensions mount in village after Weitz’s pointed letter
FULTONVILLE — Tensions are escalating between newly elected village Mayor Ryan Weitz and several members of the village’s board of trustees.
Weitz and the trustees have been at odds since Weitz’s decision to dismiss interim clerk-treasurer Kelley O’Kosky and retain the services of long-time clerk-treasurer Tom DiMezza and his wife Kathy DiMezza, who serves as deputy clerk and bookkeeper for the village.
Weitz was elected mayor March 21, defeating George Donaldson, who had appointed O’Kosky.
Donaldson was appointed interim mayor by the trustees in February, but only served briefly until losing the special election. Weitz is now fulfilling the remainder of former Mayor Robert Headwell’s last term in office. Headwell left his mayor position to become a Montgomery County legislator, taking Weitz’s old district 4 seat.
Weitz, in an open letter sent Thursday to village officials and the media, blasted the village trustees.
“The blatant hostility displayed by you all is unacceptable and, simply put; from my perspective, the position of Mayor is not worth being constantly beat up and maligned by the Board,” wrote Weitz. “There has been much talk of lack of transparency, communication, and working with the Board, while repeated attempts I have made to work with you since the day after the election have been met with anger and the explanation that you cannot trust anyone due to the prior village administrations. Frankly, that is on you all, not me.”
One of the issues in dispute regarding the reappointment of DiMezza is money he was paid to train O’Kosky.
Tom and Kathy DiMezza are paid separately for their roles with the village, with Tom DiMezza normally receiving $1,500 annually and his wife getting the lion’s share of the compensation at $27,900. Village board members said they agreed to pay Tom DiMezza $4,000 extra per month, for the months of January, February and March, with the idea that the DiMezzas would train O’Kosky and return any village documents that might be stored at their home.
Village Trustee Linda Petterson said the training of O’Kosky never took place, and Weitz has reappointed the DiMezzas and given Kathy DiMezza a raise, bumping her annual pay to $45,600.
Linda Petterson said she would like to find common ground with Weitz, but said he is unfamiliar with past problems some trustees have had with the DiMezzas.
“There is a lot of background that Ryan doesn’t know. I’ve been on the board for 14 years and I have tried to speak my mind, and many times I’ve had limited information supplied to me. Sometimes we were told we didn’t need to know certain things and we were denied access to certain records, and as part of the board, quite honestly, I’ve been berated, intimidated and spoken to disrespectfully,” Petterson said. “It wasn’t Ryan and it wasn’t Bob Headwell, but there wasn’t an atmosphere that was conducive to getting things done as a cooperative board.”
Tom DiMezza did not return phone calls for comment for this report.
Weitz, in an interview Thursday night, said DiMezza has told him it was difficult to find times to train O’Kosky. Weitz said he believes that because he said he, too, had difficulty arranging a meeting with O’Kosky before he dismissed her. He said he decided to give Kathy DiMezza a raise because he thinks she deserves it.
“The rationale there is, after speaking with Mr. DiMezza, analyzing other village budgets, that for $2,400 a month [the combined salary of the two positions prior to Janaury] that it was a vastly understated salary for the responsibilities and duties of the office,” Weitz said.
Petterson said she has issues with the odd way in which the clerk-treasurer and deputy clerk’s salaries are paid, and has issues with the raise Weitz approved for them.
“[The $4,000 per month increase] was not his regular salary. That was a special rate that we had agreed to give him, so we could get all of our stuff back and train a new person,” she said. “Now they want to flip that $4,000 [extra pay] from the clerk over to the deputy clerk without any kind of board approval.”
Weitz said he disputes the idea that the DiMezzas have any significant amount of the village’s records in their home, which is in the town of Amsterdam where Tom DiMezza is the Town Supervisor. Weitz said most village records are at village hall and that the DiMezzas simply sometimes take their work home with them.
Village trustee Linda Denton said she and other board members are looking for more information.
“We have been misled over a number of years, and we want to set it straight with a new mayor things will be done the right way and not the wrong way, as they were done with the previous administration,” she said. “We agreed to allow [DiMezza] to train our new clerk, which he didn’t do. He took the money anyways, so with him coming back on board with this new mayor, Weitz, we did not agree to this. [DiMezza] resigned on March 31. He should be gone and a new clerk should be in place.
“So the new mayor wants us to give [the DiMezzas] $4,000 a month on top of their salaries, which we are against.”
Weitz said it is not his inclination to keep the DiMezzas on as clerk-treasurer and deputy clerk past the end of the year, provided he can find common ground with the trustees on a new direction. He said he isn’t sure what his inclination will be if he can’t work with the trustees. In his open letter, he maligned the board’s lack of focus on the upcoming village budget process.
“We are now in the midst of the budget process — a process you claim I have not included you in. Pursuant to New York State Village Law, the tentative budget was required to be submitted to the Board before I even took office. After taking office at the organizational meeting, I encouraged you all to review the budget and submit any questions to me prior to our workshop. None of you sent me any questions. At the workshop, a full two weeks later, the primary discussion centered around specific personnel and performance — not on the budget,” Weitz wrote. “You now all make additional requests for me to investigate “agreements” made years, if not decades, ago regarding salaries, benefits, and other items with only a limited time until budget adoption is required by the State.
“Throughout our discussion, it became increasingly apparent that the Board’s concerns are primarily focused on petty personal agendas, which have no place in the budget process and do not serve the constituency. Further, the Board appears to lack a fundamental understanding of how municipal budgets are prepared, presented, and implemented. While I have done my best to explain this process to you, this, again, is not my responsibility, but your own as public officials. You would all be well served to spend the time to learn this process over the coming days.”
Denton said she encourages all of the village’s residents to attend Monday’s budget workshop at the village at 5:45 p.m.