Jul 28, 2014
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Town Board Splits Over Appointments; Inclusion Planned

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New Castle's new Town Board had a rocky start at its organization meeting on Wednesday when its two elected Democrats had concern that they were not properly consulted regarding appointments by their colleagues, who were elected as the Team New Castle ticket.

The concerns from Councilman Jason Chapin and Councilwoman Elise Kessler Mottel were about the full board being properly involved prior to the votes being made. Chapin, in a statement that included an historical overview, explained that the practice involved the entire board in the interview and discussion aspects for candidates. He said that the incoming board members had agreed to follow that process, but noted that the appointments were being done “without following the established process or honoring our agreement.”

Chapin added that he and Mottel “don't who interviewed whom, when and where, and what was discussed.” He also felt that the action is contrary to transparency and collaboration.

The appointments included Robert Kirkwood, a former planning board member and 2011 supervisor candidate, for the planning board's vacant seat and chair post; town justice candidate and Team New Castle running mate Stuart Miller as a third town prosecutor; Keane & Beane for the new town counsel; Mary Deems for town clerk and receiver of taxes.

Chapin abstained from all major personnel votes, while Mottel joined him on the votes for town prosecutors and Kirkwood. However, she voted in favor of appointing Deems, who has already worked in the town clerk's office.

Supervisor Rob Greenstein, part of the 3-member Team New Castle majority, was able to make some appointments that did not require the full board to vote. He appointed Jill Shapiro, the previous town clerk, to the town administrator's post, replacing Penny Paderewski, who retired at the end of last year after being defeated by Greenstein in November's election when she ran with a failed Democratic ticket.

Greenstein also appointed Lisa Katz, one of his running mates, to deputy supervisor. Mottel previously had the title under recent boards that were comprised entirely of elected Democrats. 

Greenstein, along with Katz and fellow councilman and running mate Adam Brodsky, won by using the Republican and Independence Party ballot lines, ending a years-long era of elected Democrats having a lock on, and majority of, the town board. However, Greenstein and Katz are registered Democrats, while Brodsky is a non-affiliated.

Later that night, when the board switched to a work session, Greenstein took questions from the public and local journalists. He was asked by Patch to give a rebuttal to what Chapin mentioned earlier. He explained that there was correspondence by email. He described there being a “a learning process” and expressed a willingness to learn each other's approaches.

Weighing in on the appointment of Kirkwood, which was approved 3-2, he felt that the planning board's “seat has remained open for too long.” The seat became vacant in early 2013 when Gerard Curran stepped down, leaving four members remaining. Kirkwood will replace Richard Brownell, who was reappointed, as chair.

Discussing governance, Brodsky and Katz felt there was not enough knowledge of the "inner workings" in their responses.

Brodsky, citing keeping the government running and continuity, felt it was “imperative” for the appointments taking place.

Several of the major appointments are for 6-month terms. Katz explained that this was so they can evaluate.

The topic ended amicably, however, as board members from both groups expressed a willing to work together.

Mottel would like for her and Chapin to be included in process.

Greenstein replied, “you absolutely will be” and added “I do like sending emails." Mottel responded to that by explaining that there are matters that are better with “a forum other than email.”

Katz, noting the inclusion of new board members, said “we have to come together and figure out how it all works best.”

Mottel was appreciative of her remark, as was Chapin.

Even with the disagreements, there were unanimous votes on non-controversial topics, such as mileage and an employee salary schedule. There was also no overt disagreement during the subsequent work session regarding topics such as a planned upgrade to the Code Red emergency notification system.

The style of the night had some differences from what has been done before. It was preceded by a coffee and chat, which included attendance from Chappaqua school board members, county Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, members of the Millwood Task Force and the Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce. 

The work session was held in the main assembly space and was also included in an NCCMC taping, which is usually done just for regular meetings. Previous boards generally held work sessions in a nearby small conference room instead of the main room, which has video recording equipment. It is not clear how often work sessions will be done in the main room, given the fact that the town board's schedule involves Tuesday meetings and the planning board, which usually has the bigger space, typically meets on Tuesdays.

With the meetings having passed, New Castle now has a notably different administrative lineup. Keane & Beane's Nick Ward-Willis has replaced Clinton Smith, who is also a former supervisor, in the town attorney's seat, while Shapiro now has Paderewski's post. Deems has succeeded Shapiro as clerk and receiver.

The new board approved allowing Smith's firm, Wormser Kiely, Galef & Jacobs, to still have a role in town for a select number of matters.

Don’t miss updates from Patch!