Schenectady County

Rotterdam board member critical of colleagues’ caucus

Four of the five Town Board members met behind closed doors Monday in what they maintained was a pol

Four of the five Town Board members met behind closed doors Monday in what they maintained was a political caucus, but the fifth member says town business was on the agenda.

The caucus — a meeting to discuss party business — began after a brief Town Board agenda meeting and equally brief executive session. At that point, board member Robert Godlewski, visibly disgruntled, marched out of the meeting room adjoining the supervisor’s office.

Godlewski said he left the session because his fellow board members were poised to address business that should be conducted in an open forum.

“They asked me if I’d stay for a caucus meeting and I said no,” he said before leaving Town Hall. “They were having a caucus meeting to conduct town business.”

Board members Matt Martin, Wayne Calder and Michael Viscusi were at the meeting, along with Supervisor Harry Buffardi and Town Clerk Diane Marco. Viscusi, a Conservative who ran on a ticket with Buffardi, was the only non-Democrat in the room.

Buffardi and Town Attorney Katherine McGuril described the meeting as harmless and devoid of substantive issues. They said the only business they were discussing were the upcoming installation dinners at the local fire districts.

“We’re not conducting public business,” McGuril said. “There’s none of that.”

Buffardi described the meeting as a “political caucus” and reassured a Gazette reporter that no town business was being discussed in private. He said Viscusi was invited to join in the meeting. He would not allow the reporter to attend, however.

Godlewski, who served as deputy town supervisor during the administration of recently ousted Town Supervisor Frank Del Gallo, has already been at odds with his fellow party members. During the board’s organizational meeting, he expressed frustration with Buffardi when the new town supervisor refused to answer his questions about a number of agenda items.

On Monday, Godlewski said the closed-door caucus sessions seem to be the norm for the Democrats. He said his refusal to discuss public business during caucus sessions appears to be a contributing factor to his falling out of favor with the party.

Godlewski said a similar occurrence happened in Del Gallo’s office in February 2010. He said he walked into the office to find Del Gallo, Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner, county Legislator Tony Jasenski and former board member Nicola DiLeva discussing town business in private.

“I don’t believe in that and I told them that,” he recalled. “I’ve been ostracized ever since and I probably will be for the next two years.”

Godlewski questioned why the group needed to caucus in private when they could have easily discussed the dinners or any other public matter during the agenda meeting. He also questioned why a private political caucus was taking place on public property.

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