EDITORIAL: Justification needed in removal of committee assignments

John Mootooveren
John Mootooveren

Schenectady City Council President John Mootooveren mishandled the removal of a council member from two committee assignments in not one, but two different ways Monday night.

Mootooveren announced Monday that he had removed Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas as a member of the city Finance Committee and as chair of the Planning and Development Committee.

One problem we have is with the decision itself. The second is with the secretive manner with which the news was delivered and the council president’s refusal to provide a reason to the public.

Let’s start with the second issue first.

In deciding to remove a competent, experienced council member from important committee assignments, Mootooveren owed her, the rest of the council and the public an explanation.

Obviously, he didn’t make the decision in haste, as both he and Zalewski-Wildzunas said they’d been in contact with city Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin.

Mr. Mootooveren had plenty of time to articulate a reason. That would have allowed the citizens and the council members to decide whether they agreed with the decision and to respond accordingly.

The council president also should have provided a reason to Councilwoman Zalewski-Wildzunas, if for no other reason than as a sign of respect to a fellow elected member of the council. To not give her a reason prior to taking the action was disrespectful and cowardly.

Just saying he would announce his reason at a more appropriate time was neither transparent nor respectful.

On Tuesday, in response to our reporter’s follow-up email, Mootooveren offered an oddly worded response that really didn’t provide a lot more insight, saying the decision related to vacancies on the council and to the council’s inability to agree on filling the vacant seats.

He needs to come up with a more clear explanation for the decision.

The other issue we have is with the decision itself.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who was appointed to replace Zalewski-Wildzunas, may be a suitable substitute.

But she does not have the 30-plus years of professional experience in business development, banking and finance that Zalewski-Wildzunas brings.

Why remove one of your most qualified committee members, even if you disagree with her on some issues, when her experience and expertise is so vitally needed in the city?

It’s not even clear Mr. Mootooveren had the legal authority to do what he did. Yet he moved on it anyway in this manner.

What is clear is that he has a responsibility to be forthright with his fellow council members and the citizens in ensuring they know the reasons and the legal justifications for his decisions.

In this case, he demonstrated neither.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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