GLOVERSVILLE - The Common Council and mayor had a public dispute during the Organizational Meeting on New Year's Day about whether specific people should be reappointed to the Recreation Commission and Zoning Board.
Mayor Dayton King was planning not to reappoint Zoning Board Chairwoman Karen Smith and Recreation Commission member Jean Chain, but before that could happen 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski said he would not make a motion, second a motion or consider voting in favor of another person to the board until Smith is reappointed.
"Karen Smith has been a dedicated volunteer to the Zoning Board of Appeals for 16 years," Siarkowski said. "She possesses more expertise and knowledge of the workings of this board than any single citizen living in Gloversville and also the experience of all other members of this board combined."
Gloversville Sixth Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski talks to the public about why Zoning Board Chairwoman Karen Smith should be reappointed to the board.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
He also said Smith attends numerous conferences on this subject with the cost coming out of her own pocket.
Siarkowski said he can think of "no logical reason for not reappointing her to this board and keeping her as chairperson."
Many other council members shared Siarkowski's concern with not reappointing Smith.
"She has 16 years of experience and I don't know anyone you could replace her with to make it a better board," Councilman Jay Zarrelli said.
"There is no reason not to reappoint her that I can see," said 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth. "I can just guess why you're not and I think it's appalling."
Smith is president of the Gloversville Republican Committee and Siarkowski is a member. The Committee announced its endorsement of Michael Ponticello before the primary election, which he lost to King.
However, King alleges the council has become "political" and are attempting to keep those that are affiliated with them on the various boards.
"People want to get their friends or political buddies on certain boards," King said following the meeting. "For Wrandy to speak up and say that about Karen Smith, it's just very disappointing. I think I've been very fair with who I've appointed and there are people I don't get along with that I've appointed to certain positions."
King said he didn't have anyone in particular he wanted to replace Smith on the Zoning Board but felt having the same people on the same boards prevents the city from moving forward.
"We have a city of 15,000 people with 7,000 registered voters; we need to open it up a little bit," King said. "People hesitate to apply because they think it's the good ole boys and the same people get appointed. I don't have anybody in mind and I don't intend to put all my friends on the board."
He said he believes Smith does a good job but he wants to see if other people are interested in the position.
Following the meeting Smith thanked the council for supporting her but declined to comment on the matter.
"I truly appreciate their efforts and appreciate everything that was said," Smith said.
Siarkowski also said the mayor has stated on numerous occasions that he wants to help the city move forward and has expressed a desire to communicate better with the council.
"Actions speak louder than words," he said. "This action is setting the Zoning Board of Appeals backwards instead of moving it forward."
Siarkowski said he was also disappointed that Jean Chain hasn't been reappointed to the Recreation Commission.
King said his issue with both Chain and Smith was a concern about their professionalism.
He said people from the public have stated that Smith tends to be disrespectful by talking down to them and is "unpleasant to be around."
"[Smith] runs a decent meeting but there are some things that I'd like to see from her just as far as professionalism and the other things that go along with that," King said. "That's why I didn't appoint Jean Chain as well to the Recreation Commission. Jean has a lot of good efforts and works real hard but she's disruptive and those are some of the things we can't have when you are representing our city."
He said Chain has gone around the processes put in place for the city in regards to using the department of public works for the ice skating rink and the clerk's office regarding making copies.
King said it isn't uncommon for long time public officials to be replaced in city government.
"When people retire or people go there are always people that are willing to learn," King said. "The Zoning Board of Appeals I think is an important position. However, things happen and we always rebuild so I don't think anybody is irreplaceable."
The mayor told the council he will look to address the unresolved appointments at the next council meeting Jan. 14.
He said he doesn't want to be hung up on this issue so it's possible Smith could be reappointed at that time.
"If the council wants to make these appointments then let's call them council appointments," King said. "What it really comes down to is the mayor has a certain level of authority, but as we witnessed today... the power to appoint people certainly lies within the Common Council, and if they are all opposed to it and need Karen Smith on that board then it looks like Karen Smith might be on that board."
The appointments to both of the boards are made by the mayor but also require the majority vote of the council.
Both Chain and Smith were appointed by the council to the two vacant positions on the Community Development Agency Board. Meanwhile, two vacancies remain on the Recreation Commission after Bill Rowback and Natalie Sgambato were approved by the council, with the terms ending Dec. 31, 2016.
The two vacancies are from Christine Benson, who notified the city she no longer wants the position, and Yochanon Bertos, who is in the process of submitting a letter of resignation after moving out of the area.
No appointments were made to fill the vacancies on the Zoning Board of Appeals.