As a result of Mayor Jason West’s recent actions, Village Trustee Sally Rhoads resigned as deputy mayor at a village board meeting on Jan. 23, stating she could no longer stand by such behavior.
Rhoads said she decided to resign when she realized some community members believed she supported West’s views and actions.
In her public statement delivered to the board, Rhoads said although she has supported West for the past year and a half and even proposed a salary increase for him, she does not want to be associated with the behavior he has been exhibiting.
“In recent weeks, it has become clear that I can no longer sit by and tolerate his maligning my colleagues and his recent and still continuing defamation of respected community members who have worked long and hard for tax relief for our taxpayers,” Rhoads said in her statement. “I believe Mayor West’s recent actions are intolerable, unbecoming and unprofessional for an elected official.”
One particular issue Rhoads discussed was consolidation of the village and town governments, which she and West have never agreed on. Rhoads said she believes now is the time for New Paltz to have one government, given tough economic times.
However, her problem was not their disagreement, but rather West’s refusal to “participate and convey his ideas” in discussions regarding consolidation, instead choosing to “stone-wall and obstruct.”
Rhoads also criticized West voting ‘no’ on every recommendation made to the joint town and village boards, including the recommendation for consolidation, only if it meant a zero tax increase for all residents, as well as the idea to pursue amending the New York State finance law in order to make the community eligible for $1 million, should it choose to create one government.
West’s resistance to the recommendations was particularly problematic to Rhoads because she said he did not participate in the Town/Village Efficiency Committee’s finalization of the goals.
“I think one cannot be in opposition without offering an alternative solution and espousing keeping the status quo is not an alternative solution,” Rhoads said.
Similarly, after West doubted the work of the Finance Study Committee studying the option of consolidation — which Rhoads said he refused to sit on despite being “something of a financial expert” –— Rhoads felt the mayor was direspecting her colleagues.
“Having relinquished or shirked his duty when his expertise would have been useful, he now feels justified in calling ‘liars’ those members who have at least as much public municipal financial experience as he,” Rhoads said in her statement. “I respect the wisdom and integrity of my fellow committee members and I stand by the committee’s report and its recommendations. I can no longer support or be associated with a Mayor who denounces citizens working with honesty and integrity for the good of New Paltz.”
West said Rhoads’ resignation was a symbolic action which won’t have any effect on how the government operates or what they are able to get done.
Although West apologized for calling the Finance Committee members liars and said it was “rude and inappropriate,” he said the comment was not without a basis.
“If you watch the meetings and read some of the public comments and questions people are asking, they’re still unanswered. What the public is being told and what this report says are completely different things,” West said. “I have a big problem with that, and I’m going to call people out on that every time I see it. It’s my job.”
West said in the end, the problem is not calling people out, but the numbers that were presented, specifically the suggestion that $1.6 million could be saved with consolidation, a finding West does not believe to be accurate.
As a whole, West said his dissatisfaction stems from the performance of the Finance Committee, rather than the actual members.
“My frustration is not about Sally, it’s about this process and about the work of this committee and the response by this committee to public criticism and questions,” West said. “It’s a shame because it destroys relationships, it destroys friendships, these are people’s livelihoods at stake and you don’t play games with that.”