South Glens Falls Planning Board

After Planning Board member Nick Bodkin resigned to join the Village Board, this was the Planning Board, with two men and two women: David Linehan, chairman; Gayle Osborne, Thomas Wade and Debbie Fitzgibbon. Later, Brigid Martin was appointed to the vacant seat, giving women the majority on the board for the first time in at least 30 years. Linehan recently apologized and resigned from the board after making sexist comments.

Courtesy photo

We can’t recall a comment from a local official that hit the wrong note more decisively than the one from David Linehan, former chairman of the South Glens Falls Planning Board, when he referenced the Bible and expressed a desire to have more men serving on his board.

But we also can’t recall a more gracious and spot-on apology than the one Linehan made, and reiterated, a day after a story about his comment ran in The Post-Star.

First, at the board’s December meeting, Linehan said he wanted Mayor Harry Gutheil to consider appointing a man to the vacancy on the board.

When asked about the comment later by Post-Star reporter Kathleen Moore, Linehan defended it and referred in a confusing way to the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

We’re not going to debate who comes off better in the story of creation or how Adam and Eve’s actions might affect their consideration of property line setbacks or housing density.

We are going to argue that neither Adam nor Eve, nor the serpent, nor even the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (popularly known as an apple) has anything to do with the business of a Planning Board.

Biblical irrelevancies aside, Linehan’s comment was also distinguished by its sexism, as another member of the Planning Board — Brigid Martin — pointed out to him a few weeks ago, shortly after he made the comment.

“No one should be subjected to this outright sexism, joking or not,” she wrote to him in an email.

That didn’t sink in. But the headline in The Post-Star on Tuesday — “Board chairman: Appoint man” — did, somehow, and the next day Linehan resigned from the board. At the same time, he issued an apology as contrite and sincere as we’ve ever seen from a public official.

He made a general apology and a specific one to Brigid Martin, Mayor Harry Gutheil and village Trustee Nick Bodkin.

“Please know that I now consider the remark made to Trustee (Nick) Bodkin at last month’s meeting as prehistoric and unbecoming of any servant (public or private),” Linehan wrote.

He didn’t downplay the offensiveness of his statement, and he didn’t issue some mealy-mouthed non-apology, like “I’m sorry if I offended anyone.”

His letter is convincing. He sees the light. It’s such a good apology it makes us wonder whether the mayor should refuse to accept Linehan’s resignation.

He has decades of experience in local planning and an excellent reputation. He has repudiated his comments, and we need people in public office who are willing to admit mistakes and make apologies when they should be made.

But even when another board member asked him to stay, Linehan said he is determined to leave.

“I’m sincere about it. It’s something I need to address,” he said.

We’ll take his word for it.

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Forcey, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representatives Carol Merchant, Eric Mondschein and Patricia Crayford.

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