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No discrimination in Bethel

By Daniel Sturm
February 2, 2012

Since an article in The River Reporter’s January 12 edition regarding the Town of Bethel Assessor was published, two members of the board of review have resigned. I am very disappointed to hear of these resignations. They are without explanation, and I do not want to speculate as to why they resigned, as both of these individuals have done a great job during their tenure.

I do feel that it is important at this time to comment on some very unpleasant behavior that has been exhibited toward our long-time assessor Marge Brown, her family and the assessment board of review. Comments made in the article by a so-called “local tax consultant” have been inflammatory, without merit, without evidence, libelous and untrue. Our assessor graciously declined comment; however, I will comment.

Our assessor and board of review do not discriminate against second homeowners or people of Jewish faith, as the article alleges. They do not favor voters or non-voters, or permanent residents versus seasonal. There is no evidence that our assessor gave false information as the article alleges. We are, as a town, all facing assessment and equalization issues due to a nationwide housing slump since about 2008, not because of our assessor or board of review.

Last year, a disgruntled local business owner came into the Bethel Town Hall and threatened to blow up the assessor. It was reported to authorities and documented as a threat. I was witness to this threat, and it was taken seriously. Then, two weeks ago, the same business owner sent an email dispatch to the town hall, which stated, “perhaps she [the assessor] fears a wild woman might poison her.” I consider this to be a threat as well.

The assessor, Marge Brown, is a 35-year Town of Bethel employee, and I think one of the most honest, hard-working employees we have. I like her and her family. I respect her and her decisions. She is capable, honest and committed to doing a good job.

We as a board should not tolerate any further attempts to bully, belittle, degrade or insult any of our employees. We need to stand behind those who serve this town fairly and justly. We need to stand up for common decency and stand against this type of behavior.

[Daniel Sturm is the Town of Bethel Supervisor, Bethel, NY.]