SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Citing the Bible, the village Planning Board chairman wants Mayor Harry Gutheil to consider appointing a man to the vacancy on the Planning Board.
Chairman David Linehan’s comments, first made at a recent Planning Board meeting and then to a Post-Star reporter, raised some concern. But he insisted it is reasonable to choose a man for the post.
“If you go back to the earliest years of Creation, God created man first. So it was man’s responsibility to make sure the woman didn’t eat from the Tree of Good and Evil,” Linehan said. “So if I had a man who was sensitive to the idea that man didn’t do a good job of reminding the woman, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in.”
The 30-year chairman added that men would take the job of planning seriously.
“There is good and evil in all these decisions. We’re all in this garden together,” he said.
At the end of an interview with a reporter, he acknowledged that professional planning skills would also be very helpful in the next appointment.
“It was probably not the right comment to make, as I reflect on it. But then again, if you go back to the story of Creation, men feel they need to be a little more considerate and mindful of what the rules are, and they could share that with the females,” he said.
Gutheil was surprised when told about the remarks, and said he would not take gender into consideration in the appointment. The seat of alternate member is vacant.
Linehan defended his point of view, saying he had only asked the village to “consider a man,” and that it would create gender balance on the board. Gutheil last summer appointed a woman, Brigid Martin, to replace outgoing member Nick Bodkin. (Bodkin was elected to the Village Board, so he had to resign from the Planning Board.)
With Martin’s appointment, the five-member board has three women. Linehan said women make up about 51 percent of the population, so they now are over-represented on the board.
“If you only have two males, you’re less than 50 percent,” he said. “It was more of an affirmative action statement. We’re in the minority.”
Linehan said the board has in the past usually only had one female member. He never asked the village to consider appointing another woman to balance the board, he said.
He added that he thinks women are capable people.
“Don’t get me wrong. My wife does my budgeting,” he said, emphasizing that a man on the board is a matter of equality. “I guess I was trying to be all-inclusive.”
His request did not get much traction at Village Hall.
“Appoint a what?” Gutheil said when asked about the request. “No. We’re not going to get into gender or religion issues. We’re going to get the right candidate.”
The village needs more resumes from residents who want to help make the village better, Gutheil said.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a decent pool of candidates,” he said, adding, “In all of our positions, we want the right candidate.”
Linehan’s request also shocked Martin, who sent him an email after the board meeting in which he first asked that men be considered for the appointment. Martin wrote to him that his comment made her “uncomfortable.”
“No one should be subjected to this outright sexism, joking or not,” she wrote.
She assumed his comment had been a joke. When she learned it was not, she said, “I thought I was maybe too sensitive, but — wow.”
She questioned how the board will continue.
“If it was not a joke, then I really question if the board can function as a team under his leadership,” she said. “And for the record, I respected Dave’s position and expertise on the board because of what I saw him do and his dedication, not because he was a man.”
The New York Conference of Mayors said gender should not be considered as a factor in an appointment.
“Gender is something that would not come up,” said Executive Director Peter Baynes. “I don’t see how that’s a determining factor as to how someone’s qualified.”
The conference had never been asked that question before, he said.
“We get all kinds of questions, believe me, but we’ve never had that question — maybe because the answer is so obvious,” he said.