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No elected officials should feel slighted

No elected officials should feel slighted

Even in disagreement, board members should treat one another respectfully

Maybe it's the poor role models they have in the state and federal government.

Or maybe it's just a reflection of the general decline in our ability to compromise, act respectful toward one another and accept that others might have a viewpoint different from our own.

Either way, complaints by a Princetown councilwoman about being excluded from even routine decisions and being subtly ostracized by her political opponents on the Town Board should serve as a lesson on how not to govern.

Councilwoman Susan Shafer took office in January after winning election on a ticket opposed to new Supervisor Bob Myers and board member Lou Esposito.

She claims the two go out their way to ensure she's left in the dark on items that come before the board by not giving her all the information they have and by denying her requests for more time to review items she’s just received.

Shafer was even seated at the board table away from the other council members, next to the female town clerk. The supervisor said he thought she would be more comfortable sitting next to a woman rather "than with all the guys."

Even if you think the seating arrangement is a trivial issue, you can't deny there's nothing more disrespectful to a fellow elected official than a statement like that. What century does this supervisor live in anyway?

The supervisor and the councilman deny the allegations. And maybe Councilwoman Shafer is, as they claim, blowing her treatment out of proportion.

But if she feels she’s being slighted, the supervisor has an obligation to make sure she isn’t.

Public officials don't have to agree on everything. In fact, it's better when they don't. Legitimate disagreement is vital to making sure all sides of an issue are covered and that all constituencies are represented.

Public officials don't even have to like each other to function as a board. Councilman Esposito has every right to be ticked off at the way Councilwoman Shafer treated him during the general election.

But what elected officials can't justify is showing disrespect for one another and using that disrespect to treat one another unfairly, to the point where some elected officials don't feel they can represent their constituents effectively.

If the councilwoman feels she's not getting enough information to make decisions, the supervisor should make more of an effort to make sure she's in the loop earlier. If she gets a document thrown at her at the last minute and feels she needs a reasonable amount of time to consider its contents, the board should give her the time, not dismiss her concerns outright.

Of course, Princetown isn't the only local government body to act this way. There are other communities (you know who you are) where political opponents are treated like lepers.

The message for all is the same: Each elected official deserves an equal degree of respect for his or her viewpoints and all board members should be treated equally by board leaders.

When you're elected to a government board, you no longer represent just yourself. You represent the people in your community -- the entire community.

Don't forget that. The voters certainly won't.

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