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Village of Wellsville Board Passes Motion To Prevent Residents From Speaking at Village Meetings, Marshall Green Addresses This With A Letter.


Letter to the Editor:


I pride myself on always being open to have a civil conversation about anything with anyone.  I respect that at times someone might have a very different perspective than me… and that is ok.  This is America and I believe strongly in the freedom of speech that we are each afforded… even when that is speech I disagree with or even am appalled by. 


Over the last few weeks, I have made it very clear that I am displeased with the handling of a police case that I have direct evidence in which a Wellsville police officer wrote clear and concise false information on a police report.  This affected my life significantly and I would not wish this on anyone.  For clarity, all charges were dropped and the indicated report from CPS against me was overturned by an administrative judge in Albany.  There is much more to that case that I have previously posted and discussed.


A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with Chief O’Grady about this false information in the report (remind you this was not simply a miss-checked box but a clear false statement of facts).  While Chief O’Grady politely heard my complaint… when I offered the evidence for him to review, he refused it.  He also placed blame on the DA rather than properly reviewing what I was attempting to show him.  Frustrated that there was no resolution or acknowledgment of the issue at hand, a few days later I proceeded to file a formal personnel complaint against the officer.


I also posted a news article that I wrote explaining this situation along with emailing the Village of Wellsville Mayor and all the board members to ensure they have a full understanding of the situation as the village board ultimately oversees the police department. They all received copies of the published article, copies of the report with the false statement, and a personal letter from me stating the things I would like to have happen to resolve this issue… the most important being that this officer be placed on temporary leave of duty until an independent investigation can be conducted to see if he indeed violated the law by writing a false statement (which under certain codes could rise to the level of a felony).


I also informed the village clerk that I would like to be added to the agenda for the public village meeting on Monday, March 23. I was informed by the clerk that this was the procedure to ensure that I could address the board.  I was also told by the village clerk that at every meeting, the floor is opened to the public to address the board prior to the board going into executive session.


When I attended this meeting… the first order of business the board declared was to pass a rule that the floor will no longer be open for the public to address the board with grievances, and the process of informing the clerk to be added to the agenda will no longer be accepted as well.


We were directly told by the mayor that from now on if a member of the public wishes to address the board they must first contact a designated liaison (board member), and that board member will attempt to resolve that issue… if the issue cannot be resolved, then the board will decide if it is appropriate for that member of the public to address the board or not.


For clarity…  from this point forward, the Village of Wellsville Board Members will decide which members of the public they deem important enough to address them.  This is, in my opinion, an incredible backstep in transparency by the village board and a direct slap in my face and every other resident of the village.  Also, this might be a blatant violation of the NYS Committee on Open Government (NYSCOG) rules and regulations for local municipalities.


I reached out to file a complaint with the NYSCOG explaining that the new rules put in effect by the Village Board was in direct violation of the NYSCOG laws. 

 

The law states that municipal boards have the right to not allow the public to address the board at public meetings.  However, it also clearly states that if they are going to allow public members to speak that they must create rules for the privilege to speak “that are reasonable and that treat members of the public equally.” 

 

I received a response 12 hours later from Christen L. Smith, a senior attorney with the NYSCOG and this was her response: “In our opinion, it is questionable whether a single member of a public body may validly determine unilaterally whether a person desiring to speak should be permitted to do so. It is our view that the Village Board, if necessary, should determine by means of a majority vote of its total members if there is a question or disagreement regarding whether an individual providing public comment is doing so in a manner consistent with the Board’s rules."



Smith continues, "In my opinion, this amendment to the Village’s public comment procedure is inconsistent with the goals of the Open Meetings Law.  Below please find a previously prepared advisory opinion relating to a similar inquiry." https://docsopengovernment.dos.ny.gov/coog/otext/o5607.htm


In short... the board has to either prevent everyone from speaking or must let everyone speak. They DO NOT get to decide who can speak but can establish rules for everyone to speak. For example then can limit everyone addressing the board to 2 min.

 

I get that I have a loud voice and that offends some in this community.  There are others who for whatever reason just do not like me.  That is ok, we do not all have to like each other. There are also others in this community who are afraid to voice their opinions because of their jobs or family members… they often stop me in the street to thank me for being their voice.  To be honest, this empowers me.


I welcome anyone at any time (when I do not have my children with me) to approach me and have an honest, open and most importantly civil conversation if you happen to disagree with my opinion that I have openly spoken about.  You might leave seeing a different perspective… I might leave with a different perspective. This is how we grow as individuals…This is what makes this country great!


Ultimately, I hope we can all agree that we should be able to live in a community where there is honesty and transparency with all our public officials.  There should be no secrets, no cover-ups and no privileges extended to one citizen that is not extended to another.  When it comes to these issues, I would have my worst enemies back, because at the end of the day these are the things that most matter to preserve a thriving community, and it is our responsibility as the citizens of Wellsville to come together and hold our public official accountable…  Especially when we have to most to lose in doing so. 

 

Marshall Green

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