TAGHKANIC – The controversy over an anti-Semitic slur voiced at a Town Board meeting last month by the town assessor surfaced again at this month’s meeting.
The board heard a letter from town resident Alan Wilzig, who said the town has made too much of a slur made by Assessor Art Griffith at last month’s meeting. Mr. Wilzig wrote that he was not offended by the slur, though he would prefer people not use the expression, which he described as “pre-PC.”
But Town Board member Larry Kadish disagreed and read an editorial from The Columbia Paper addressing the incident. A letter from a “Mr. Maye”r of the Anti-Defamation League was read that called the phrase used by Mr. Griffith, “Jew them down,” as one used to perpetuate stereotypes about Jews.
Town Supervisor Betty Young said, “My response to Mr. Mayer was that the phrase was unfortunate. We repudiate the use of such language and I sincerely apologized. Mr. Griffith is elected and not subject to discipline.”
Referring to Supervisor Young, Mr. Kadish added, “Betty called me and apologized twice.” He proposed a motion of censure, stating that the Town Board neither agrees with nor accepts the remark. The board adopted the resolution unanimously.
Mr. Kadish said that although Suzette Booys, director of the county Real Property and Taxation office, said that Mr. Griffith was always fair, Mr. Kadish said the remark might be a problem for some Jewish residents and suggested that the town move from three elected assessors to a sole appointed assessor. A local law could be adopted to change the system but it would take more than a year to complete the process. Fifteen of the eighteen towns in the county now have sole assessors. The board decided to research the question.
The board also heard a letter from town resident Martha Meier, who complained about the difficulties she encountered trying to review town financial records. A number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests she submitted to the town clerk have been filled, but others have languished. Town financial records are public and should be available for inspection by any citizen upon oral request, she said.
Ms. Meier voiced concern that board member Richard Skoda was given authority to sign town checks but that the authorization was not made at a public meeting, and she also questioned whether the town’s bookkeeper is bonded and whether the town has enough insurance to cover financial fraud.
Town Clerk Cheryl Rogers said she had recently obtained the requested information and would make copies for Ms. Meier.
Town zoning enforcement officer Dennis Calahan reported that town resident and dog breeder Curtis Rist was fined $500 for not moving his dogs off his property by the end of the year, a deadline he had previously agreed to. Mr. Rist now plans to move the animals to a kennel he is building in Greenport by March 31.
The building committee plans to interview consultants to advise the town on its garage project. Later, town resident Tony LaSalvia urged the committee to try to build as green a structure as possible because future energy savings will be important to the town.
The Zoning Commission reported that it has drafted a new town excavation law that needs to be reviewed by an attorney. Allyson Bennett who is seeking a permit to mine gravel and wants a moratorium on new permits removed had asked to be placed on the agenda but did not show up.
A vacancy on the Board of Assessment and Review needs to be filled by May. The five-year position is paid, and the person would have to attend a two-hour training session April 4. Interested persons should send a letter of interest to the Town Board.