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Taking sides by doing nothing

April 28, 2011

At Wednesday night’s Town of Delaware Board meeting, the issue of potential conflicts of interest for board members being asked to make decisions about the hot-button issue of gas drilling arose. I wish I could say the response by the board and town attorney Kenneth Klein gave me confidence that they knew where the lines need to be drawn.

Councilman Harold Roeder Jr. declared that if anyone on the board benefits financially from drilling, we all benefit indirectly, since that money is taxed, and spreads out, or trickles down—or perhaps leaks is a better word in this case—to the rest of the community. But I don’t think that is what New York State’s General Municipal Law means when it says that no municipal officer shall enter into an agreement, either express or implied, that involves any matter before any agency of his municipality, or that it is what the attorney general meant when he advised that local officials with possible conflicts of interests should not even debate such issues, let alone vote on them. If Klein knows about these laws and opinions, it’s puzzling that he didn’t mention them when asked to define conflict of interest. If he doesn’t, then perhaps it’s fair to say he did not provide the town with the best legal advice in this instance.

I don’t have any idea who may or may not have a conflict of interest, but the issue is a valid one, and people have a right to raise it and be taken seriously.

Town supervisor James Scheutzow deserves credit for running a respectful and mostly civil meeting, given the high stakes, although at least once he allowed Roeder to shout down a citizen who had begun to speak. A gavel would have been more appropriate than his silence. Perhaps this is related to the board’s adoption of what it calls “neutrality” with regard to drilling. Neutrality means not taking sides. But taking sides is not always about doing something. It can also be the result of doing nothing.

Edward Levy
Hortonville, NY

Exactly wrong.

People elected have responsibilities to the voters to make fair decisions in good faith. Every decision in local government could be considered a conflict of interest. They fix a road because they like the widow that lives on it. They plow a road last because the guy that lives on it votes for Ron Paul. Every action can be considered a conflict. The gas issue cannot be decided by neutral parties, as there are none. Those against are people who either have plenty of money and do not need more, or people with no land who do not feel they will profit and are envious of those that will. We call them Enviou$. Property owners deserve representation, but most importantly, elected officials need to do what they were elected to do. The ballot box is the place to register disapproval, or approval. That is how democracy works, and not by bullying elected officials to think they are evil or selfish when they make decisions they were elected to make.

Altruistic?

Boy, I hate to tell you "Natural", but you are wrong on this. I have plenty land and no money...what does that make me if I refused to sign a lease? I stick to my core beliefs at a heavy cost.
Again you are assuming. I'm disappointed. I deserve representation because I struggle to pay my taxes, I do not impact the County or Township negatively nor am I a burden. Is an expectation of responsible unbiased government too much? Is it so much to ask?

Good luck

I sympathize for you, swifty. Many people in your situation had little or no choice but to sign leases in order to keep their property. The alternative is parcelling off piece by piece to wealthy urbanites seeking second homes in this little bucolic paradise. Personally, I would rather see the Delaware die not that I believe for one second that will happen. I have no intentions of being shoved aside by impossible land taxes and a horrible economy and so I support drilling. You choose to stick to your core beliefs and that is admirable. If you lose your land, will the new owners stick to your core beliefs? Good luck with that.

At least

At least you admit that you hate to tell TheNatural he is wrong! That is greatly appreciated. Next time,take it a step farther and just agree with TheNatural.

Thank You, Mr Levy.

Thank You, Mr Levy.