Mamaroneck Board Under Fire for ‘Secret’ Trustee Nod

11 Feb, 2014

By Polly Kreisman

board mamaroneck

Controversy after Trustee Wittner (top left) resigns


Did the Town of Mamaroneck quietly, and without public scrutiny, decide to appoint a former Village of Mamaroneck Trustee to replace Phyllis Wittner, who retired Feb. 1?


The result, says former Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe, who contacted theLoop Tuesday, “is taxation without representation.”


Up until a few days ago, the five members, all Democrats, consisted of two Larchmont residents, Supervisor Nancy Seligson and Councilwoman Jaine Elkind Eney and three residents of the unincorporated area, Ernest Odierna, Abby Katz and Phyllis Wittner, until her resignation.


Now it appears that as early as Wednesday, Tom Murphy, a Mamaroneck village resident and former village trustee, who ran in the Democratic primary for County Legislator in November and lost to Catherine Parker, will be officially sworn in.


“That means the majority of the Board can pass tax hikes that won’t affect them, or pass Town Fire Dept. bond issue that they can’t vote on.” O’Keeffe says. “It’s crazy. They’d flunk Government 101. There seems to be no respect for the process.”


Over the last few weeks, the Town has sent notices of a “personnel matter about a Town employee” being discussed in Executive Session, a type of meeting that is not open to the public.


It now appears those sessions were held to discuss appointing Murphy.


O’Keeffe and another former Town Supervisor, Elaine Price, who now lives in Massachusetts, suggest this may have violated Open Government laws, as applied in recent similar cases in New York State, where Executive Session employment matters should apply  “only to employees of the municipality and not to appointments to fill the unexpired terms of elected officials. Certainly, the matter of replacing elected officials, should be subject to public input and scrutiny.” 


“There was no transparency here,” says O’Keeffe.


Tom Murphy responded, “It is a Board appointment. There will be an election for the seat in November… Valerie’s Town view Balkanizes us as a community, it is a very divisive view of government. I am a citizen of the Town not just the Village. I will make decisions based on what is best for everyone in the community. I actually find Valerie’s assertions to be insulting.”


The Board meets Wednesday Night.


 
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  • oreo

    It is clearly Tom and the Democratic Party that is insulting to those who would be newly colonized as residents of the unincorporated area under the Village Queen.

    The Town is divided – nothing new – two villages and a town/non-village area. The villages exist so their residents are not subject to Town taxes and services. For Tom to be joined with Nancy and Jaine as a majority on the Town Board which will prescribe the taxes and services that do not affect them is the height of absurdity.

    If Abby and Ernie to fail to recognize their complicity in what will likely become TOM”s folly (pun intended) we have ourselves to blame for electing them; but at least we had the choice. Perhaps the villages will help Abby and Ernie sing their swan songs along with Phyllis’ soon; or perhaps they’ll be just two ducks in the pond.

    That any here tolerate this government in secrecy, the Queens new clothes have at least been exposed, and hopefully the people or their courts .. or an innocent child .. will soon announce an end to it for the sake of the child’s future.

    • Nancy White

      Village residents pay Town taxes as well as Village taxes – that’s why their burden is so high. I’m not defending the appointment or the manner in which it was done, I just don’t understand why anyone would object to a resident of the Village of Mamk serving on the Town Board.

      • oreo

        Nancy, for 2014, the average Town tax for a Villager was $517, a reduction year-over-year of 4%; that tax paid for shared-services negotiated between the Villages and the Town. The average Town tax for an Unincorporated Area resident was $6,083, an increase year-over-year of 1.4%; that tax paid for shared-services and mostly for Town only services (e.g. police, fire). Villages provide their own equivalents to Town-only services within their boundaries and of their own choice for their own residents only.

        Village residents can lower their Town tax burden even further by opting-out of some shared-services.

        I don’t understand why anyone would object to residents of the Unincorporated Area having the same control over their own taxes and services as residents of the villages. That some would say they can determine the fate of Unincorporated Area residents, by serving on their government, than could those residents themselves, fails understanding.

      • Nancy White

        Thank you Oreo for clearing that up. I did not understand that – I always thought the reason the Village taxes were so high was because they were on top of Town taxes. Maybe only Town-only residents should be allowed to serve in Town gov’t?

      • oreo

        You’re very welcome Nancy! My pleasure. I’ve been forced to learn that when it comes to Village, Town, City and County government in NYS there is always much to learn.

        It doesn’t help when government entities such as the Town Board, act in secrecy as they’ve done here, preventing the public from learning and partcipating.

        Have a great day :-)

      • Mlloyd

        No one objects to residents having a say. But there is a law that says we don’t have immediate and costly elections immediately when someone resigns. We trust our representatives to act honorably and honestly to fill the spot for the remaining term, which in this case is ten months? The budget passed last December. If taxes are your concern, How many budgets will tom be voting on before the next election?. None! The voters will have their chance to decide if the village of mamaroneck should have one member on the town board (talk about taxation without representation…….). So relax and stop accusing honest people. They all….everyone of them….deserve more thanks than we give them.

      • Charles

        MIIoyd misses the point. No one objects to having a representative who lives in the village of Mamaronek. The trouble is there already TWO coucil people from the village of Larchmont! With Mr. Murphy’s appointment, there are only TWO council people from the unincorporated town. This means that village residents are the majority. Tom Murphy WILL vote on the 2015 budget! His appointed term expires December 31, 2014. If you live in the unincorporated area, you have now lost control of the majority of your only government. Would either Village “relax” if three of their trustees were replaced by town residents that did not live in their Village?

      • Mlloyd

        You are right, I missed your point, but it will not make a difference. Ask yourself when the last time the budget, which is the product of months of planning and compromises, didn’t pass unanimously. Ask yourself what percent of the budget is discretionary and what is set by labor contracts and New York State law. You can call for a turf war if you prefer, but most residents know that, united we stand, divided we …….. Pay more for services we can and do share. Furthermore residents don’t “have control” over their elected officials; Altieri calls the budgetary shots…….. And while he is very good at his job and good for the community, he is certainly not an elected official. So, you might think about resisting the urge to denigrate the integrity of your neighbors, without cause. Like it or not the town board is made up exclusively of town residents. The fact that the town includes the villages, and the villages are just villages, is a fact of New York State law. It’s worked pretty darn well for generations.

  • TownRez

    Not surprising – the Town Board members obviously think they are entitled to their seats and aren’t accountable to the citizens. Probably because, they’re not accountable. Nancy Seligson, the Town Supervisor (anyone ever actually see her doing anything?) and the council members were elected with 100% of the vote just months ago – why – no other candidates on the ballot. This despite the Weaver St. bridge fiasco, silence on the destruction of trees in Larchmont, no Town improvements to speak of and the (dangerously) poor state of our roads.

    Sadly, we get the government we deserve: do nothing cronies.