Comment From Concern Citizen On The Way The Planning Department is Run

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Comment:

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To be fair the problem is really the inept way the Planning Department and the Planning Board chairman work to prevent the public from learning how town planning decisions are effectively made by the Planning Department. A big part of the problem is the way Dal Guiliani exercises disproportional power over the other Planning Board members.

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But I think that may be changing, or I sincerely hope it is. I have seen a glimmer of promise from some of the newer Planning Board members who are beginning to understand they are being badly lead by Gilmour and Guiliani.

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Some Planning Board members have been reluctant to speak up when they see things that don’t make sense to them, such as the “old boy” verbal confirmation mechanism (i.e., never put anything in writing mentality of the Planning Department).

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My hope is that these other Planning Board members use their independent judgement and personal integrity when dealing with the TOA entrenched power structure asking them to rubber stamp planning decisions.

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Trucks,Tankers and Other Types of Vehicles Are Left Parked Overnight

Village of Williamsville

My personal thought of what spot in the Village of Williamsville is the most unattractive, would be the corner of Main and Garrison, where the Kenyon gas and convenience store once stood.

Almost every day and overnight, tankers, oil trunks, and different types of trunks are left parked there.  The land gives off the feeling of contamination after years of gas and other type of  trunks have been standing there overnight, possibly contaminating the land.

It’s being sitting vacant for about four years without any testing by the village, the DEC or the land owners.

I’m sure they will jump at the chance to check this land for the various types of contamination they might have to deal with as soon as possible.

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Pigeon Associate Kristy Mazurek Eyes Run for Wozniak’s Assembly Seat

Kristy Mazurek, photographed in 2012 on WGRZ set for show “2 Sides,” is expected to run for Angela Wozniak’s Assembly seat. (Sharon Cantillon / Buffalo News)
Kristy Mazurek, photographed in 2012 on WGRZ set for show “2 Sides,” is expected to run for Angela Wozniak’s Assembly seat.

 

A central figure in the state-federal probe surrounding political operative G. Steven Pigeon is now preparing to run for the Assembly.

Kristy L. Mazurek, a longtime Pigeon associate, has asked for Working Families Party backing and those close to her say she is preparing to mount a Democratic primary candidacy for the 143rd District seat being vacated by Republican Angela M. Wozniak.

Mazurek’s effort begins just as state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has empaneled a special grand jury in Buffalo to probe possible crimes stemming from a political committee called the WNY Progressive Caucus that she administered during the 2013 Democratic primary campaign. The fund gave about $267,000 to several anti-organization Democrats favored by Pigeon.

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Buffalo’s Architecture and State’s Tax Credits Help Land Major Motion Picture

“Marshall” producers Jonathan Sanger, left, and Paula Wagner discuss the architecture of Buffalo with Mayor Byron W. Brown on Sunday.
“Marshall” producers Jonathan Sanger, left, and Paula Wagner discuss the architecture of Buffalo with Mayor Byron W. Brown on Sunday.

‘Marshall’ filmmakers heap praise on WNY

Actors Kate Hudson, James Cromwell and Chadwick Boseman bring star power to the movie “Marshall” that begins filming Monday in Buffalo.

But Buffalo’s architecture plays a major supporting role, too.

“We scouted a lot of different cities, but Buffalo has preserved so much fantastic architecture from the turn of the last century,” director Reginald Hudlin said Sunday outside City Hall.

Hudlin joined the movie’s producers and a group of Chinese investors to receive a Buffalo welcome from Mayor Byron W. Brown and other political officials.

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The Planning Board Puts On Comedy Act At The May 19th Meeting

AmherstTownHall3

I couldn’t believe the comedy of errors I watched at the May 19th Planning Board meeting. 

This committee was totally lost this day.  Chairman Robert Gilmour didn’t know what direction he was going. He threw out senseless answers left and right.  The Town Attorney assigned to the Planning Board was more of an embarrassment then I imaged.  He referred to many different books to find answers while the Planning Board meeting was in progress.

Mrs. Shapiro waited for the answers which were confusing and rather ridiculous.  Town Attorney Jeff Marion’s efforts to help this Board were valiant but poorly done.

The only person on this Board who made any sense was Mary Schapiro.  She tried very hard to straighten out the confusion.  The other members of the Board insulted and belittled her because she isn’t part of their “Yes” group.  One of the major errors the assistant attorney said was that the Town had adopted Roberts Rules of Order as the Town Rules.  That never happened.

Out the blue the Chairman of this committee called for an executive session.  Mrs. Shapiro asked what the reason was for the session.  She was told it was for “legal matters.”  Mary said, :You can’t do this unless you tell the Board and the audience what the legal matter is.”  The Chairman asked the attorney of they could go to Executive session and he said they could.  He was wrong.  They broke the law.  The attorney gave them false information.

They came back from executive session about 10 minutes later.

There is a video of this meeting on the town’s website if you need a good laugh.

by James Tricoli
Editor of the Amhersttimes

Comments (1)

To Convene Or Not Convene Legally, That is the Question

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Mr. Sliwa:

As the town attorney for Amherst I am contacting you regarding my concern as to how a recent executive session was conducted by the Amherst Planning Board. I would appreciate if you can address my concerns and forward this email to the members of the Planning Board.

Dear Amherst Planning Board Members:

As a concerned citizen I reviewed the agenda for your May 19, 2016 meeting and watched the meeting video tape.

Item 8.1 of the agenda simply stated “Legal Matter”.

When item 8.1 of the agenda came up during the meeting a motion was made at the 2:51 mark of the tape to go into executive session to discuss a “confidential legal matter”. When Board member Shapiro inquired as to what the legal matter was the response provided was that can’t be answered in public. When member Shapiro asked whether this was regarding pending litigation, the answer given was that can’t be answered. Ms. Shapiro pointed out that before going into executive session the reason for the executive session must be stated.

As an attorney familiar with the New York State Open Meetings Law, I believe that Ms. Shapiro was correct and that the Board violated the law by going into executive session improperly.

Robert Freeman as the Executive Director for the New York State Committee on Open Government is a recognized expert on the Open Meeting Law. Mr. Freeman has rendered many opinions on the subject of holding executive sessions.

Attached is a 2008 Opinion written by the New York State Committee on Open Government, which states to validly convene an executive session for discussion of proposed, pending or current litigation, the public body must identify with particularity the pending, proposed or current litigation to be discussed during the executive session.

A key portion of the Opinion is repeated below:

It is emphasized that the Open Meetings Law requires that a procedure be accomplished, during an open meeting, before a public body may enter into an executive session. Section 105(1) states in relevant part that:

“Upon a majority vote of its total membership, taken in an open meeting pursuant to a motion identifying the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered, a public body may conduct an executive session for the below enumerated purposes only…”

As such, a motion to conduct an executive session must include reference to the subject or subjects to be discussed, and the motion must be carried by majority vote of a public body’s total membership before such a session may validly be held. The ensuing provisions of §105(1) specify and limit the subjects that may appropriately be considered during an executive session.

Further, it has been held judicially that :

“…the public body must identify the subject matter to be discussed (See, Public Officers Law § 105 [1]), and it is apparent that this must be accomplished with some degree of particularity, i.e., merely reciting the statutory language is insufficient (see, Daily Gazette Co. v Town Bd., Town of Cobleskill, 111 Misc 2d 303, 304-305). Additionally, the topics discussed during the executive session must remain within the exceptions enumerated in the statute (see generally, Matter of Plattsburgh Publ. Co., Div. of Ottaway Newspapers v City of Plattsburgh, 185 AD2d §18), and these exceptions, in turn, ‘must be narrowly scrutinized, lest the article’s clear mandate be thwarted by thinly veiled references to the areas delineated thereunder’ (Weatherwax v Town of Stony Point, 97 AD2d 840, 841, quoting Daily Gazette Co. v Town Bd., Town of Cobleskill, supra, at 304; see, Matter of Orange County Publs., Div. of Ottaway Newspapers v County of Orange, 120 AD2d 596, lv dismissed 68 NY 2d 807)”

We stress that a public body may validly conduct an executive session only to discuss one or more of the subjects listed in §105(1) and that a motion to conduct an executive session must be sufficiently detailed to enable the public to ascertain that there is a proper basis for entry into the closed session.

A 1996 decision (also attached) written by Mr. Freeman states the proper way to motion for an executive session is “I move to enter into executive session to discuss our litigation strategy in the case of XYZ Company v. the City of Geneva.” Mr. Freeman also stresses that the purpose of an executive session to discuss pending litigation is to permit a public body to discuss its litigation strategy and not issues that might result in litigation.

In light of the above cited opinions which also reference Court decisions, my hope is that the Planning Board will correct the Agenda and minutes for the May 19, 2016 meeting by properly identifying the legal matter that was discussed under item 8.1.

I further hope that the Planning Board will change how it describes legal matters on future meeting Agendas and that motions for executive sessions will be properly done by specifying the legal matter and the reasons for an executive session, so that it complies with the Open Meetings Law.

I appreciate the time you devote to public service as I know that it is not easy work. My concern as a resident and as an attorney is that the public can see your work and that the law is properly followed.

I have copied Mr. Freeman on this email and I welcome any further information that he would like to share.

A copy of the video for the Planning Board meeting I am referring to is also attached.

Sincerely,
Paul Wolf, Esq.

http://docs.dos.ny.gov/coog/otext/o4627.html
http://docs.dos.ny.gov/coog/otext/o2621.htm
http://docs.dos.ny.gov/coog/otext/o4214.htm
http://amherstny.iqm2.com/Citizens/

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New Carnival This Weekend in Williamsville

Village Spring party 2016

Runs ThursdaySunday; Proceeds to benefit historic railroad depot

Who:    The Village of Williamsville
Midway Rides of Utica
The Western New York Railway Society

What:   The first-ever Williamsville Spring Fair kicks off today in Williamsville. The carnival, managed by Midway Rides of Utica, will feature more than 15 rides for children of all ages. Admission to the carnival is free and traditional fair foods will be available for purchase. The event is meant to draw awareness to the South Long Street area, which is being redesigned as a walkable neighborhood with small shops and townhomes. Proceeds from the rides will benefit the WNY Railway Society, which manages the Lehigh Valley Train Depot on the carnival site. The Railway Society will also host a flea market from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

When5 to 9 p.m. Thursday;
5 to 10 p.m. Friday;
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday;
Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: South Long Street Park, South Long Street, Williamsville, NY 14221

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Morley Safer, Stalwart of ‘60 Minutes,’ Dies at 84

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Editorial: Why Our Town Board Meetings Are A Joke

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You walk into an Amherst Town Hall meeting.  You came to say something about a certain project which is on the agenda for that evening.

The rule was you had to sign up before 7:oo pm to be able to speak about the topic which concerned you.  If you “fell in snow” and came into the meeting 5 minutes late you couldn’t speak at the first free expression part of the meeting, but if you hung around until the end of the meeting you would be allowed to speak.  The trouble with speaking at the end of the meeting is that hardly anyone is there to hear what you have to say.

Currently the agenda is set up slanted for the Town Board members who control all the information pertaining to what the meeting will be about.  There usually are about 49 items on the agenda which Town Board members can talk about.  The Board usually puts 95% of the items “on consent” which means there can be no discussion about them by either the Town Board or the public.

The audience isn’t allowed to ask any questions about these items because they have already been discussed in the afternoon where no questions can be asked by the public, like any town business done in the past two weeks like purchases they’ve made, people they’ve hired and other important things the Town is in involved in, or what they plan to do in the future.

The way the town meeting runs the public can address the Board before any of the Town’s business is discuss by every department and before the Town Board members speak.  The public may have questions that they want clarified based on information that they heard at the last Board meeting.  Sadly they don’t know what has transpired between that meeting and the current one.

This is ludicrous. How can the public ask questions about the agenda when the topics on the agenda aren’t discussed until after the public speaks and before they have any knowledge of what is going to be discussed by the Town Board and every Department such as Highway, Engineering and the rest of the departments on this night.

The second time the public can ask questions is at the end of the meeting.  At that time the Town Board will not answer questions but tell you, you will be answered by e-mail or other methods.

The Town Board arranged the agenda this way so the meeting would not run long.  I believe this is a not an example of transparency but a way to keep secrets and hold the people in the dark.

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Complaint Accuses County Democrats of Illegally Conspiring With Statewide Union

Marc Panepinto defeated incumbent Republican Mark J. Grisanti in 2014 for the 60th District State Senate seat, but is not seeking a second term. (John Hickey/Buffalo News file photo)
Marc Panepinto defeated incumbent Republican Mark J. Grisanti in 2014 for the 60th District State Senate seat, but is not seeking a second term.

An investigation into the 2014 campaign for State Senate may intensify as a new complaint has been lodged against the Erie County Democratic Committee charging illegal coordination with a statewide union.

Buffalo attorney Peter A. Reese, who is often at odds with local party leadership, has asked the Erie County district attorney and the state Board of Elections to seek an “investigation and possible prosecution of election law violations” in connection with a $60,000 contribution from the Communications Workers of America.

The bulk of that money, Reese contends, was funneled into the campaign of Democrat Marc C. Panepinto, who already is mentioned in two separate probes of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political operation and its 2014 efforts to elect a Democratic majority in the Senate.
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