New appointments stir controversy at Monroe reorganizational meeting

| 22 Feb 2012 | 04:28

    MONROE - Change continues in the structure and personality of how the Town of Monroe is governed. At its annual re-organizational meeting Monday night, several new appointments were put over to executive session. This way, the board would be able to discuss the merits of the newcomers in private rather than publicly. But before that took place, there were a few that were publicly taken up. Taking on the role as Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Chairman will be Dan Burke. He also was appointed to take on the duties of the animal control officer at a salary of $14,000 a year. For the ZBA he will be paid $1,500 annually. The vote was 3-2 with Supervisor Sandy Leonard and James Rogers, both Republicans, voting against the appointment. The supervisor said Burke “was totally inexperienced to be at the helm for the position of ZBA chairman.” Rogers brought up the issue of town employees wearing two hats, which has been pretty much phased out except for the Tax Collector and Parks Department. He also queried why he was left out of discussions pertaining to the new town appointments. Councilman Gerard McQuade, who nominated Burke, praised the new appointee’s attributes and noted his role as Animal control officer will be to get the department in managerial shape. Wearing two hats has been a matter of contention with the new board members. Councilman Harley Doles reminded the public that the town clerk is also the tax collector and that Rogers is in charge of the Mombasha Park. Doles would later nominate former Harriman Police Chief Gary DeFilipis to take over Rogers’ park duties. Doles then suggested the newly appointed ZBA chairman give up the $1,500 salary and do it voluntarily. Leonard shot down the idea “as setting a bad precedent.” With that, the DeFilipis appointment was on hold. “This was the most disorganized re-organizational meeting I have ever seen and that cronyism is back,” said resident Ed Doles (no relation to the councilman). “I only see Democrats making appointments.” Councilman Doles responded by reading from a list of the appointees, their political affiliations, and pointing out that not all were Democrats. Another appointment also caused a stir: Jerome O’Donnell’s nomination to replace Dennis McWatters on the town Planning Board. Resident Ward Brower asked why McWatters was moved from the Planning Board to the Zoning Board of Appeals when he had just been re-instated as a planning board member? Brower questioned whether the planner had been pushed out or did have the option of staying on that board? McQuade said the change would mean a use of talents which culminate from his active membership in the community by serving on many municipal boards. “He could have stayed,” McQuade said. “He wasn’t pushed out.” Brower countered, “ Was it the ZBA or get out? Councilman Rick Colon said he read an e-mail that McWatters accepted the new job. In an e-mail exchange, McWatters wrote: “My term had expired on the Town Planning Board and I accept an appointment on the Zoning Board of Appeals.”