NARROWSBURG, NY — Councilwoman Brandi Merolla’s resignation from the Tusten Town Board, effective August 12, just eight months into her second term, was so sudden that it didn’t …
NARROWSBURG, NY — Councilwoman Brandi Merolla’s resignation from the Tusten Town Board, effective August 12, just eight months into her second term, was so sudden that it didn’t even appear on the board’s August 11 meeting agenda. It was added as the last item just before the meeting adjourned.
Following Merolla’s reading aloud of her own resignation letter, there was an extended silence among the board members.
“Do we have to accept her resignation?” asked councilwoman Jill Padua.
“We do have to respect her wishes,” replied supervisor Ben Johnson.
A roll call vote followed; each member voted, with deep regret, to accept Merolla’s decision.
Merolla’s letter of resignation, dated August 11, cited ongoing concerns for her own health during the COVID-19 pandemic and for her own safety in the face of threats made to her. It reads, in part, “My driving efforts have always been to protect the health, safety and welfare of all residents of our town. However, I, too, need that protection... During the pandemic this year, my health and safety have not been recognized at my place of work, leaving me fearful of entering our town hall. I cannot and will not sacrifice my health for this job.”
Merolla suffers from an underlying health condition that leaves her especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Advised by her doctors to avoid unmasked gatherings, Merolla has been unable, since the start of the pandemic, to do her usual work in the town hall.
Her letter continues, “Recently, when I was physically confronted and my life actually threatened by an angry resident, I decided I’d had enough.” In a private interview by phone on August 12, Merolla said the referenced incident had been witnessed by seven people who corroborated the report subsequently filed with state police.
During the same phone conversation, Merolla reiterated a resignation letter reflection on her board service. “I have worked very hard to serve all the residents of this town honorably and respectfully. The vast majority of this town are amazing, generous, talented and inspiring people. I thank them all for their wholehearted support, as well as their efforts in making Tusten a special place to call home.”
Town board work occupies her, on average, about 40 hours per week; Merolla receives a $75 weekly stipend from the town. “I didn’t go into this job for the money,” says Merolla. “When I told my mother what I earn for doing it, she said she’d pay me that to cut her lawn.”
Merolla plans to continue her nine-year service on the Tusten Energy Committee (TEC), currently serving as its chair. Several initiatives begun early in her TEC service are now coming to fruition: the lighting district project (town purchase of streetlights and replacement of existing streetlight incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs), the food waste digester and the Tusten solar array were all begun under Merolla’s leadership. That, of course, is a volunteer job. It pays nothing at all.