Charter issues surround Gloversville council shakeup

While they were formulating a legal basis to prevent Councilman Ray Hindes Jr. from rescinding his J

While they were formulating a legal basis to prevent Councilman Ray Hindes Jr. from rescinding his Jan. 12 resignation, Gloversville officials apparently forgot to read the City Charter provisions governing appointments to a council vacancy.

On Tuesday, as the council was preparing to interview five candidates seeking an appointment to the seat held by the 6th Ward Democrat, the emergence of the charter issue seemed to at least threaten a planned appointment — if not block it.

City Attorney Matthew Trainor said late Tuesday he was reviewing the charter and searching for the notes filed by the charter commission that wrote the document in the late 1990s. While the review continues, Trainor said there is no reason to cancel the interviews.

For a vacancy occurring more than 60 days from the general election, the Common Council is empowered to fill the seat provided that it acts within 30 days, the charter states.

The window to appoint a replacement for Hindes seems to have passed, but Trainor said the language in the charter may not settle the issue if the framers’ notes show it was their intention to ensure that a seat does not remain vacant for an extended period.

It would be unfair, he said, to leave 6th Ward residents unrepresented.

Mayor Dayton King conceded Tuesday, “It’s an issue we should have been aware of.” Since taking office Jan. 1, King has had to cope with filling three council vacancies, as well as deal with the continuing debate over how the two previous openings were filled. There are seven council seats in all.

Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, D-1st Ward, part of what became the minority bloc when the two previous vacancies were filled, said Tuesday there is no ambiguity in the charter. “Shall means shall,” she said, quoting the section limiting the appointment period to 30 days.

Though King mentioned the possibility of a special election in the 6th Ward, Wentworth said she favors filling the seat in the general election. A special election would be too costly, she said.

If an appointment is not possible, King said, he will urge the five candidates to consider running for the office.

Councilman-at-large James Robinson, the leader of what has become a four-member Republican majority, said Tuesday he had not been informed of the deadline issue. Robinson said he has yet to review the situation but might support a special election.

Wentworth said she is still seeking legal clarification of the circumstances that led to the appointment of former mayoral candidate Dirk Myers on Jan. 1 to the 3rd Ward council vacancy, a step that formed the new majority. Following Myers’ appointment, Jay Zarrelli was named 5th Ward councilman and Trainor was named city attorney.

The progression of events led to the decision by Hindes, upset over political maneuvering, to resign. He later reconsidered, but on Feb. 9 the new council majority voted to block his return.

The snowballing situation claimed City Clerk Brenda Pedrick, who was told state public officers law compelled her to make a decision on Hindes’ return. She resigned but said she was coerced. She has consulted a lawyer but on Tuesday had no comment on her legal options.

At the heart of the chain of events was the legal standing of former Councilman Matthew Myers, R-5th Ward, who resigned Nov. 18 but remained on the council through Jan. 1, when he voted to appoint Dirk Myers (no relation) to form the new majority.

Wentworth, local activist Jack Kinzie and others contend Myers was no longer a councilman on Jan. 1 because public officers law limits a term following a resignation to 30 days.

Though Myers filed an amendment to his resignation letter Dec. 29, stipulating he would remain in office until the close of business Jan. 1, critics argue he was no longer a councilman on Dec. 29 and did not have the option.

Trainor has issued an opinion asserting that there is case law overriding the 30-day term limit cited in the public officers law, but Kinzie said that he has found numerous cases upholding that provision of the law.

Kinzie has filed complaints on these issues with both state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Wentworth said she is also seeking an opinion but has declined to specify her source. She said Cuomo’s office will not render an opinion unless asked by a council majority or a city attorney — two avenues, she said, that are obviously unavailable to her.

Categories: Schenectady County

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