The New Paltz Town Board voted not to reappoint Tim Rogers to the New Paltz Town Planning Board at their last meeting of 2014 on Dec. 18, a decision that has retroactively been justified on claims that Rogers’ position on the Town Planning Board and the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education resulted in a conflict of interest pertaining to the proposed location of a sewage treatment plant adjacent to New Paltz High School.
At the Dec. 18 meeting, New Paltz Town Councilman Jeff Logan stated that Rogers did not have the support of New Paltz Planning Board Chair Mike Calimano and that there had been “multiple complaints” from applicants about Rogers’ service on the planning board as reasons against his reappointment. A new member to the planning board was appointed later that night.
“It is my feeling that Tim’s lack of appointment and the subsequent appointment of a new member on the same night was done in a highly unprofessional manner,” New Paltz Town Councilman Dan Torres said. “The town rushed to appoint another candidate in Tim’s place. I abstained from this appointment as I was never given the candidate’s letter of interest or resume nor was I allowed the opportunity to interview the candidate. Apparently, the other board members had reviewed her application. When I voiced opposition because I had not received information about the candidate, [New Paltz Town] Supervisor Susan Zimet said, ‘Yes, you didn’t!’ My request to hold the vote [until] the following meeting to allow the full board the opportunity to perform due diligence was then denied.”
In a letter to the New Paltz Times written after the Dec. 18 meeting in regards to the reappointment decision, Torres stated that in speaking with Calimano, Logan’s assertion that the chair did not support Rogers’ reappointment to the planning board was “not an accurate representation of [Calimano’s] views.” At a subsequent town board meeting on Jan. 5, 2015, Logan produced email correspondences between himself and Calimano showing that Calimano had contradicted himself in his talk with Torres.
Calimano also emailed Rogers’ to clarify his position, stating that he had taken a neutral stance on the matter and had neither supported nor opposed Rogers’ reappointment. Later quoted in a New Paltz Times article, Calimano said, “it was Jeff who informed me that the Town Board was against the re-appointment of Tim. In fact, I asked Jeff if Tim would remain on the Board pending a new appointment only to find out that the Town Board had already appointed someone else.”
Regarding the claim that there had been multiple complaints about his service on the planning board, Rogers contacted planning board attorney George Lithco and learned that contrary to Logan’s statement, only two letters expressing concerns over Rogers’ input on the planning board had ever been filed – both from Park Point developer Wilmorite and both of which Rogers’ had known of previously.
“In response to your question, I am not aware of any letters to the planning board other than the two letters from Wilmorite you mentioned, which were copied directly to me by Tom Daniels, as counsel for Wilmorite/Park Point,” Lithco said to Rogers via email correspondence obtained by The New Paltz Oracle.
At the Jan. 5 town board meeting, in response to Torres’ letter to the Times, New Paltz Town Councilman Kevin Barry introduced a new argument defending the board’s decision not to reappoint Rogers — this time citing that Rogers was in conflict for having voted on a board of education resolution on Dec. 4, 2014, opposing the town’s proposed location for a sewage treatment plant adjacent the high school while also holding a seat on the town planning board.
According to Barry, Rogers could have recused himself from the vote but because he “did not ask if recusal was prudent under the circumstances,” he placed his loyalty to the school district over his loyalty for the town. Barry’s opinion about the conflict was supported by Logan and Zimet.
Rogers, who served on the board of education and planning board simultaneously from May 2013 through December 2014, said “at no time [during my service] did anyone from the town board or attorneys representing the town board or planning board mention there was a potential conflict [serving on both boards].”
“The notion that Tim’s role on the school board posed a conflict is not based on legal opinion but a dubious argument asserted by Councilman Kevin Barry,” Torres said. “Anyone with knowledge of the gears of local government knows that planning and school board are some of the most demanding and pressure-packed of all the elective and volunteer boards. That Tim Rogers has volunteered on both these boards at the same time, with the high degree of engagement he has brought, is beyond admirable.”
The location of the proposed sewage plant adjoining the high school is land that Barry himself owns, according to New Paltz Board of Education member Steve Greenfield. The site, at the South Putt Corners Road, is specifically referenced in a Town of New Paltz Response to Feasibility Study dated Nov. 18 from town engineer Dave Clouser.
“My understanding is that board members should recuse themselves when they have an involved financial interest,” Rogers said. “Considering the Town Ethics Law and New York State code, Barry should be recusing himself from all votes, as well as, discussions related to any possible Town projects and his properties and not be sitting at the board table during any deliberations. Barry may not have been allowed to express an opinion or vote on my reappointment given the reason he stated about a school board and planning board conflict and a proposed sewage plant on his properties.”