VALATIE–The Valatie Community Theatre held a Candidate Panel Tuesday night, with all the candidates running for Town Board and supervisor invited. Two of the five people running came to the event, both of them running on the Democratic Party line.
Peter Bujanow, who is running for Town Supervisor on the Democratic, Green and Working Families lines, attended the event as did Bill Mancini, running for Town Board on the Democratic and Green Party lines.
Town Supervisor candidate Patsy Leader, who is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines, did not attend and sent an email to the Community Theatre board October 17 explaining why she did not plan to attend the October 29 event.
Candidates Timothy Ooms and Philip Bickerton, who are both running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines, also did not attend. They are both currently on the Town Board with Ms. Leader, who serves as deputy supervisor. There are two seats for four-year terms open on the board this November.
More than 30 people attended the hour-and-a-half long forum, asking Mr. Bujanow and Mr. Mancini questions that ranged from the climate change to broadband in Niverville. The forum was moderated by Parry Teasdale, the publisher and editor of this newspaper.
“I will work hard and dedicate myself to serve the entire Kinderhook community,” Mr. Mancini said in his opening statement. Mr. Bujanow said at the end of the forum, “I’m excited to get in the role and make things happen.”
Resident Jeffery Ouellette was the only audience member who voiced concerns that the candidate forum was being held at the Community Theatre. He said he thought there were better venues for the event and not at the not-for-profit theater which has a mission to promote the arts. “There is no place for politics in the arts,” he said.
The Valatie Community Theatre is run by a non-profit organization with a volunteer board of directors. The building is owned by the Village of Valatie.
Other audience members praised the theater for hosting the event.
Valatie Community Theatre board member Tom Barber spoke at end of the forum, saying that the board had asked the village attorney and Mr. Barber asked his personal attorney about whether the forum could be at the theater. He said that as a not-for-profit organization the theater could have events like this as long as all the candidates were invited. He said the theater board was approached about having the forum and the board had discussed the matter.
Ms. Leader sent an email to the Theatre Board, signing it as the Deputy Supervisor, which said, “We each received directly or indirectly requests to attend a political debate at the Valatie Theater. This debate is characterized as something ‘impartial and non partisan’ but as we find it interesting that all of the arrangements were made, including the choice of moderator, without any consultation.”
The letter goes on to say, “We would further ask that you examine your certificate of your corporation. The Valatie Community Theater is a community resource and it maintains a nonprofit status. Hosting political events or being partisan may jeopardize such status. You further indicate that it is after the beginning of early voting. Which somewhat defeats the purpose of a candidates rights.”
The letter mentions a Kinderhook Republicans’ “Meet the candidates night” on October 24 at the TriVillage Rod and Gun Club in Valatie, which she said was similar event.
The letter goes on to say, “For all of the reasons… there will be no participations [sic]. We would certainly encourage you to check the status of your entity to even hold such an event. The Valatie Community Theater is too important to jeopardize in order to appease the demands of a political candidate.”
Ms. Leader is also one of the people listed in a law suit against Kinderhook Democratic Committee members about the way the committee conducted its caucus where Mr. Bujanow was nominated as the party’s candidate for supervisor. At the caucus the Democratic Committee passed a motion saying that only registered Democrats could be nominated as the candidate for supervisor. But Kinderhook Republican Committee members filed a suit claiming that State Election Law 6-102 “provides that town committee cannot adopt a caucus rule which mandates that only enrolled members of the party be nominated at caucus.” The law suit was dismissed due to the petition due to a “filing error,” according to a letter from Kinderhook Republican Committee Chair Stephen Williams.
In September the letter about the law suit was sent to town residents.
In a decision made in October an appellate court dismissed the suit.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email