Published On: Tue, Jan 1st, 2019

u·surp… /yo͞oˈsərp/

Usurp

Merriam-Webster

Definition of usurp -- intransitive verb

-- to seize or exercise authority or possession wrongfully


So...shortly after Miscione won the Primary for town supervisor, he contacted me asking my help on how to create a volunteer board to oversee the various parks and thus eliminate the Parks Director position.

I started searching to see how other towns in New York handle their park administration. That's when I found out about General Municipal Law 243.

I sent an email to Miscione with General Muncipal Law 240-246, Article 13, Playgrounds and Neighborhood Recreation Center, attached and with the pertinent parts highlighted. I also included a link to the particular law online and one to the Town of Hyde Park, NY town code for an example of how one might write a Parks Commission Local Law. It was just what he was looking for; or so he said.

Councilman Woodland brought the idea to the town board at the January 17th town board meeting:
"REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING January 17, 2018

REPORTS OF TOWN OFFICIALS BY STANDING COMMITTEE

Parks & Recreation Committee – Councilman Woodland

Establishment of Parks Commission Councilman Woodland proposed that the Town consider establishing a Parks Commission. The Town Attorney explained two ways to achieve this; either by Resolution for said Commission to act in an advisory capacity only, or, by Local Law under Home Rule Law if the Commission were to be established otherwise. Similar to establishment of the Police Commission, there would be five (5) members with staggered terms. The Board concurred that the Town Attorney would have the Resolution (advisory capacity only) prepared for the February 7, 2018, meeting. One resume has been received to date."
After the meeting, it was quite clear by the discussion at the table that Miscione was confused so I sent him an email and suggested that he speak to the Town Attorney to get a better understanding of the difference between an advisory committee and a commission created by local law under General Municipal Law 243. I also once again attached a copy of the General Municipal Law 240 - 246 highlighted, but this time I included an explanation after each highlighted section of what the law meant.

At the February 7th meeting, a local law was introduced:
"Parks and Recreation Commission, Establish – Local Law Introductory The Town Attorney submitted proposed legislation to create a Parks and Recreation Commission – in place of a Parks and Recreation Standing Committee – and which Commission would supervise and manage various operations and programs at the Town’s three (3) parks and the Recreation Center. The Commission would have no budgetary authority."
It would be a Parks and Recreation Commission who would be given the supervisory and management powers to replace the current Parks Advisory Committee and with no budgetary powers. O.K., sounds good! Public Hearing is set for March 7; one month away.

At the March 7th  Public Hearing, the local presented to the public stated:
"The Commission shall supervise, oversee, manage and direct the operations of each of the Town Parks and all of the recreation programs provided at any of the playgrounds, parks or recreation centers by the Town of New Hartford. The Commission will have no budgetary authority."
A resident questioned "why the Town was forming a Parks Commission." It was explained that "the Commissioners would do “walk throughs” of the Donovan Memorial Park, Sherrillbrook Park and Washington Mills Athletic Field, talk with residents to see what they’d like in the parks, i.e., music, farmers markets, etc., make suggestions for improvements, programs. The Commissioners would not have any budget authority."

Hmmm!  The law that was being considered doesn't seem to match up with the explanation given to the questioning resident! Clearly, everyone is not on the same page, however, like clockwork, the Parks Commission Local Law was unanimously adopted by the town board after the Public Hearing. In fact every step of the way in creating the Parks Commission, the votes were unanimous!

A review of town board minutes and articles in the Observer Dispatch show Miscione going back and forth on whether or not the new Parks Commission is advisory and whether or not he will head the commission as the Parks Director.

Here's the problem...General Municipal Law 243 clearly states that if created by local law a Parks Commission "shall possess all the powers and be subject to all the responsibilities of local authorities under this article." Of course, under Home Rule the town board can modify the law and they did just that when they took away the budgetary powers and the power to appoint the chairman of the commission. However, all other powers afforded to the town board are now by local law unanimously adopted by the town board to be the powers of the new Parks Commission! It really doesn't matter what Miscione wants or thinks at this point!

So not only is Miscione ineligible to be appointed as Parks Director due to the constraints of the Whitehall Doctrine and General Municipal Law, by appointing Miscione Parks Director, the town board members are usurping the powers they unanimously gave to the Parks Commission under Local Law 1 of 2018!

Oh, and if you thought this was the only other problem, think again! My next blog will show that we have a town board headed by a town supervisor that apparently has no problem voting on resolutions without understanding what they are voting on or making any effort to question. Sadly, four (4) out of five (5) members have held their board seats for multiple terms of office! Is this what you voted for?

Stay tuned!