Hartsville: Give Them The Keys, Or No Vote On the Justice

March 23 2017

HARTSVILLE, NY – The Hartsville Town Board held a special meeting on Wednesday evening, to vote on whether former town justice Katherine Burdick should replace current Hartsville Town Justice Mary Smith Gerbes. However, just before the town justice vote by the board, Hartsville Board member Tom Dobell objected to having vote at all. Dobell stated that he would be a “no” vote, unless Hartsville Town Supervisor John Bowles allowed Kay Miles and Nancy Owen, to have the keys to the Hartsville Town Hall.

Background: In Hartsville, there are two factions on the town board. Supervisor John Bowles and town board member Leon Woodworth are on one side, and Tom Dobell and Dave Mcevoy are on the other side. The board is split now, 2-2, because of the recent passing of board member Jim Perry, an ally of Dobell and Mcevoy. It appears that board member Tom Dobell is trying to teach Supervisor John Bowles a lesson: Dobell would not vote for Katherine Burdick, because Supervisor Bowles won’t give keys to town historians Kay Miles and Nancy Owen. (Bowles wanted the vote for Burdick to take place, and Dobell prevented that from happening.)

Kay Miles and Nancy Owen were appointed by the Hartsville Town Board to stay on as the town historians at the Hartsville February meeting. However, from what we can tell from town board discussion, Supervisor Bowles is not allowing the two ladies to have a key to the town hall, until he receives a written apology from Nancy Owen, over an issue that was not fully explained. One person told Wlea that it was about a letter that Nancy Owen wrote, in which Owen was allegedly critical of John Bowles. We’re told by Kay Miles, the former Hartsville Town Clerk, that she is not allowed to have a key, allegedly because of an argument between herself and Supervisor Bowles. Supervisor Bowles also wants an apology from Kay Miles.

Present at the Wednesday night special meeting were Supervisor John Bowles, Clerk Jessica Henderson, town board member Tom Dobell, and town board member Leon Woodworth. Town board member David McEvoy was not present, and Dobell’s vote was required to get a vote in for Katherine Burdick.

After over 10 minutes of discussion, a town board vote was taken on whether to make Katherine Burdick the Town Justice. Hartsville Supervisor Bowles and Hartsville Town Board member Woodworth voted yes, Hartsville Town Board member Tom Dobell voted no. Town Clerk Jessica Henderson said the vote did not pass, due to a lack of a quorum. So Mary Smith-Gerbes remains the Town Justice.

Dobell: Before I can give Katherine a yes vote, I need you to fix another appointment that hasn’t been done right. I need Kay Miles to have keys to this building so her and Nancy can come in and do work, before I can say yes to Katherine. We’re not going to appoint another position until we get this one settled.
Bowles: There’s more to that, and I’m not sure that this is anything that should be discussed right here, if you’d like to into executive session, we can talk about it.
Dobell: I think I know all the details John.
Bowles: I don’t think you do.
Dobell: Well, they were appointed, they have a right to be in the building, and that’s not right, that’s not fair. I heard you want a written apology from them, to your wife. Well, you owe an apology for things you’ve said about them, I mean, a lot of people should say sorry for things they’ve done.
Bowles: Well –
Woodworth: First of all, I think this is out of order, because we’ve got a resolution on the floor, on the table now.
Dobell: Well, I called the Association of Towns, and they said I can say this. So, either he gives keys to Kay to open the prooer doors, so they can get into the doors of this building so they can do their work, or else I’m not going to –
Bowles: We need to go into executive session.
Dobell: No we don’t.
Bowles: Yes we do.
Dobell: No we don’t. The bottom line is yes, give the keys now and we’ll make sure they work to the doors they’re supposed to go to, or else I’m not going to okay it. That’s the bottom line John, no. I’m tired of this being a dictatorship in this building.
Bowles: It’s not a dictatorship.
Dobell: It is if you don’t let them in here, you’re the only one here stopping them from coming in here doing their work. That’s a dictatorship. You don’t have that authority. Where in the town law book does it say that John Bowles has the authority to not let appointed people into the town hall to do their work?
Bowles: I think that anybody that represents the town in any fashion has the obligation to not pick and choose who they nice to or not. Who they are rude to or not. And that’s what I put out to Kay Miles. If she’s going to represent the town in any position, that she needs to be able to not…make comments that she does in public.
Dobell: That goes for you too John.
Town resident: Can I make a point of order?
Bowles: No. No. We’re not having any discussion here right now.
Resident: It’s not discussion.
Bowles: And if you can assure me of that, I’ll go along with it.
Dobell: Yeah, I don’t think there should be any problem John.
Bowles: I’d like to hear it from Kay.
Miles: Yes – sir, what did you say?
Bowles: That as a representative of the town, you’re obliged to (inaudible).
Miles: John, for 10 and three quarter years, I can say, honestly, that I’ve always treated anybody that’s come in to this town hall respectfully, and I’ll sign anything on that. I’m proud of the work I did, and you kept after me, hounding me, Carol kept at it, and that’s all I’m going to say. No, I will not. They appointed me to the town historian, and Nancy, and we want to be that. We’re proud of that job. It’s an appointment, not a”
Bowles: We need to go into executive session.
Dobell: No you don’t John. Yes or no? Are you give keys out and give them to them, and show them that they work these locks, or else I’m going to say no. The Justice Department can appoint somebody else, not Catherine (inaudible)
Katherine Burdick: What’s my appointment got to do with anything? I mean, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m sorry.
Dobell: I’m just tired of John playing favorites here, not letting people in – (there’s) certain people he wants in the town hall. They have a right to be here, they were appointed back in February at that meeting. It’s in the town minutes. They have a right –
Burdick: I thought I was being appointed because I was the next in line after Gettman for the – .
Dobell: No, it’s agreed upon by the board. It wasn’t just because. It’s a board agreement that put you there.
Burdick: I understand that but I also, Buddy Gettman, when he resigned, that puts me in the next slot, because I won the write-in. That’s why I thought I was being put in the position.
Dobell: I thought it was because the board all agreed on it. Dave (Mcevoy) and I didn’t have any problem with you taking this position. But like I said, I’m not going to put another position if we can’t straighten out the one we already have that John –
Burdick: I’m honestly, this is making me uncomfortable right now, because I don’t want to be involved in any of the politics going on in town.
Dobell: I’m sorry, at the last meeting, John said he was going to give them keys and let them (Kay Miles and Nancy Owen) in. He belittled them, he did not let them in.
Burdick: Well, till you get that straightened out, because I really don’t want to be involved with the politics, I like everybody here. And I don’t want to be in that position –
Dobell: That’s your choice, and I don’t want to put you into this position, but this is just something we need to straighten out here.
Burdick: If that’s something you’re going to discuss, I can leave, I’ll excuse myself.
Bowles: We need to go into executive session.
Dobell: No.
Bowles: What are you afraid of?
Dobell: I don’t want to John. The bottom line is you give them keys so they can come in and do their job, and if you’re not, I’m not going to do it. That’s the bottom line. You’re not going to sway me in executive session and try to sway me one way or the other way.
Bowles: So you’re not going to be a man of your word?
Dobell: I am a man of my word. You be a man of your word and I’ll say yes and (inaudible). You’re not a man of your word, you said at the last meeting you were going to let them come in and do their jobs and give them their keys and you didn’t do that. So you’re not a man of your word.
Bowles: Well, the other two people don’t have their keys either.
Dobell: That’s not my fault. That’s not my fault. If they’re not coming forward to get them, that’s their fault. Not mine.
Bowles: Well, there’s also the matter of the checkbook and the paperwork that goes with it.
Dobell: Yes, and you have no rights to any of that stuff.
Bowles: Oh yes I do.
Dobell: No you don’t.
Bowles: I certainly do.
Dobell: Well, I’ll make the motion that (inaudible).
Bowles: They’ve got to turn over the paperwork, they’ve got to turn over the checkbook.
Dobell: They do not. No they do not. I talked to the Assocation of Towns and they do not. You are full of crap.
Bowles: I have the authority to oversee the finances, and without the checkbook
Dobell: And they showed you the balance sheet and –
Bowles: They did not show me anything. They did not show me anything.
Dobell: Yes they did.
Bowles: They did not show me anything.

At this point, a vote was taken, Bowles and Woodworth were yes votes in support of Katherine Burdick, Dobell voted no, and so Mary Smith-Gerb stays on as town justice.