October 19th, 2017
CANISTEO, NY – There was a good turnout Thursday afternoon for a Town Hall meeting in Canisteo. In attendance were Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Joe Errigo, and representatives for Senator Tom O’Mara and Joe Giglio.
Many questions were asked of crowd of around 40 people which included term limits, unfunded mandates, upcoming republican candidates, enhanced star programs, tax caps, wind farming, and the Hartsville situation.
Palmesano also gave updates on the upcoming budget, which he said as of now is sitting around a $4 billion deficit, and the three propositions on the upcoming NYS ballot: Allowing the forfeiture of a public officer’s pension if convicted of a felony, authorizing the use of forest preserve land for specified purposes, and the constitutional convention.
The first of the two major issues that generated the most debate was wind farming, with the majority in attendance anti wind. You can see that discussion below:
Also a major concern was the situation in Hartsville. Board member Tom Dobell showed up along with many of his supporters to voice his complaints about how Supervisor John Bowles is running the town.
We contacted Supervisor Bowles for his response, he sent out a statement explaining his positions:
The Town’s budget compiled in 2015 for 2016 and approved by Muhleisen, Howe, *****, ******, and Dobell, all of whom purposefully left out $53,800 of indebtedness that Muhleisen, Howe, *****, ******, and Dobell had committed the Town to. This was really disturbing because it also involved a CPA as bookkeeper. The documentation is available for any concerned citizen. There should have been a tax increase of at least 13% instead of the tax cap limit of 2%. These Board members set the budget up so it took from the Highway Dept. The outgoing Board members are bound to like it, because the new Board members will be blamed for the shortfall. It almost worked, but because Palmer resigned the outgoing Muhleisen gang had to cover the budget shortfall they created with $45,900 from Highway Fund reserves. Dobell liked this strategy so much he voted to do it again in 2016 for the 2017 budget. They kept the taxes down but the 2017 Town Board was again stuck with the unmentioned $53,800 long term indebtedness that had to be paid. You will be happy to know that because of my efforts at fiscal responsibility, there should not be a drain on the highway reserves this year to balance the budget. Reality is that I received some lucky financial breaks along the way, most of which came through the Highway Department.
Ian Henderson and his many unpaid and unappreciated overtime hours for the Town, brought in over $200,000 in FEMA money to the Town to give a significant reserve account balance and this Board repaid his efforts on behalf of the Town by reneging on benefits to him. How much money did this Board in 2015 and 2016 waste? Yes, I believe the Town should have an audit. Let the audit tell whether the past Board did the right thing for the Town.
One really has to wonder what the goal of the 2016 Board was. What did they have in mind? Were they ever working for the Town? I do not see how.
There have been questions about the Teamsters Union coming to town. There are several whys as to what happened that I cannot answer, but my actions were directed for the good of the town. There is some background involved. In 2010, Supervisor Andrus spent nearly $16,000 in legal fees to harass one man into quitting for the purpose of stopping the Union. (We have the paperwork to prove it if anyone is interested.) I had no intention of having that much being spent again. The outgoing Board only put $5,000 in the 2017 budget for legal fees. The real Union problems showed up when the Board ignored the Union’s request for discussion in August, 2016. The Union eventually took the issue to a NYS Law Judge. After failed correspondence, the Law Judge requested a telephone conference with Supervisor Muhleisen. Muhleisen made no response. The Law Judge then authorized the Union to file legal action against the Town. Still no response from the Town Board and nothing in any Board meeting about the Union issue. On the 12th of December 2016, George Deats, highway department employee, (never took the oath of office for Highway Superintendent) wrote up dishonest allegations against employee Carbone and (by what authority I do not know) fired Mr. Carbone.
The Law Judge immediately asked Muhleisen and the Town Lawyer for another telephone conference on December 23, 2016. Again, the Law Judge was ignored. The Union had no choice but to push the lawsuit. Muhleisen and the Board set up a potentially very expensive legal problem for me to resolve. How can past Supervisor Muhleisen and the 2016 Board say that ignoring the Union and Law Judge was in the best financial interest of the Town? They cannot. In the meantime, what were they doing FOR the Town? Nothing that I have seen or heard.
I was witness over the years of considerable inappropriate harassment of the highway department employees by various members of the Board for no apparent good reason. Personally, I was of the opinion that these employees were in need of protection from the Town Board. As Supervisor elect, I was asked by the employees if there was anything I could do. I called the Union BA and ultimately received copies of the ongoing, ignored correspondence between the Town and the Union/Law Judge.
Upon taking office I found correspondence from the former Town Attorney to former Supervisor Muhleisen where he recommended the Town accept the Union. Given this info, what was Muhleisen and the Board thinking by ignoring the Union and Law Judge, creating false allegations to fire an employee and bring an unnecessary lawsuit to the taxpayers? There are hard copies if anyone has questions.
Because the Board had ignored the issue since August, 2016 ultimately creating a lawsuit against the Town for me to handle, I discharged the lawyer, hired back the improperly fired employee with back pay and resolved the lawsuit. Regardless of the taxpayer dollars saved, Board members *****, ****** and Dobell, after ignoring the issue for 5 months, were upset. They also refused any discussion as to why the issue had never been public knowledge. Yes, in one context I bent the rules, but the Board was guilty of ignoring the rules.
*****, ******, and Dobell ignored a legal resolution and hired the Lawyer back. The context of “for the good of the Town” by this Board has eluded me.
Muhleisen and *****’s Town attorney has not been totally straight about the Civil Service involvement in Town affairs. From statements made, *****, ******, and Dobell did not have a clue about how Civil Service interacted with the Town. Most telling was the fact that in the last 10 years, former Supervisors Dombert, Andrus, Parini, and Muhleisen NEVER filed required reports to Civil Service. One highway employee, reported by Highway Superintendent Henderson, was the only Civil Service entry that was up to date from Hartsville. During my tenure and after two months of intense compilation of information, Hartsville’s Civil Service obligation is up to date. The above named former Supervisors did not do their job and seem disturbed that I, with the help of my wife put in the time to correct their negligence. One might ask what did these former Boards do for the Town?
The recently resigned attorney wrote several letters telling me what I should do and asked some really dumb questions. Questions that I cannot believe he, as an attorney does not know the answer to. Many of his questions are very straightforwardly spelled out in the various Town Law manuals. I felt he was not interested in helping, but just trying to waste my time. He also asked for copies of material he already had. I quit answering his letters. Then he started threatening me with a lawsuit unless I recognized him as Town attorney and paid his dishonest bills. Needless to say, that behavior strengthened my resolve to ignore him. Then he got very rude and made several more dishonest allegations about my behavior as Supervisor and sent these dishonest statements to various NYS Officials. Why has this former Town attorney been so desperate to cause trouble in Town that he found it necessary to fabricate so many dishonest statements?
Since Councilman Dobell has been on his own, any forward progress for the Town has been hampered. Outstandingly, he refuses to approve meeting minutes and sign vouchers and appoint a neutral Town Clerk. Very unfortunate. My attorney advised that I should keep up with the Town’s financial obligations regardless of Dobell’s apparent arbitrary rejection of responsibility and duties listed for his elected position. I, on the other hand have tried to do it right if I felt it was financially sound for the Town.
To date, without Dobell’s approval, I have cut the Town Hall’s electric bill nearly 50%. I have just negotiated a 55% reduction in the Town Hall’s heating bill. For the first time in 10 years, the Town’s Civil Service requirements are up to date. The worm/insect problem in the Judges court have had an exterminator spray and Mr. Smith (Maple City Pest Control) donated his $150.00 fee. Because of the excessive moisture in the Town Hall basement it will likely be an every year exercise. I have saved the cost of a lawsuit by the Union and brought reasonable protections to the highway workers. Please be advised that any benefits and rules in place (Highway Dept. Employee Handbook) that were removed after August, 2016 (when the Union first approached the Town) had to be reinstated until upcoming negotiations. For the first time in at least two years our antique phone system is functional (no more fax tone when you call and want to leave a message). The Town Hall has new screens in 5 windows. Town Hall PESH requirements were completed and approved as were the Highway Shop issues. Funny that Muhleisen never mentioned any Town Hall PESH issues. First I knew was two weeks before inspection. It could have been very costly in fines. Outside looking in, one has to wonder what their spending plan was hoping to accomplish.
The Town’s new historians, Fran Clancy and Joyce DeWall have been going through Hartsville documents (at the Call Museum) with the Steuben County Historical Society going as far back as the 1800s. To anyone interested in this sort of history, the antique paperwork is just an awesome find.
It has recently come to light that the Town’s pay loader has basically died. The Town is looking at an expenditure of $150,000 to $200,000. A healthy reserve account is helpful to have, but we have also been offered, by a long time Hartsville resident, a $25,000 donation to offset some of this expense. Any other residents, without conditions, willing to invest in our Town? Muhleisen? Howe? Dobell? Unfortunately, the outstanding deal that is available will be gone at the end of the year.
If Mr. Dobell refuses to cooperate and sign paperwork for the purchase of the new Loader, he alone will be responsible for costing the Town nearly $50,000. Hopefully someone can successfully inspire him to use his position to do the right thing for the Town before the money is lost to the taxpayers.
With the exception of the new Fire Contract from Canisteo, the Town’s finances are in good shape for the coming year. It is my intent to, without jeopardizing full fire and ambulance coverage, to negotiate a more fair and equitable pricing arrangement for the Town of Hartsville.
I would ask that anyone with questions or concerns about the “State of the Town” make written inquires directed to me at Town Hall. I will try to respond by mail and/or have a public discussion on some of those more outstanding inquires at the November Board meeting.
Thank you and God Bless.
John A. Bowles, Supervisor