It was not the best of starts for the Warren County Board of Supervisors last week. They were unable to even get through the standard nominations and election of a chairman without acrimony.
There are obviously strong personalities at work here — as you would expect on any leadership board — but we are concerned that it might be something more, and that it ultimately might impact the work the board is supposed to be doing for the people.
After Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, a Republican, was nominated for a second term as chairman of the board, one of Queensbury’s at-large supervisors, Matt Sokol, quickly moved to close nominations.
According to Post-Star reporter Don Lehman, Glens Falls Supervisor Claudia Braymer was frantically waving her hand to be recognized. Lehman said it was not clear whether Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, acting as the temporary chairman, did not see her, or if the procedure was being rushed.
Braymer was eventually recognized and nominated fellow Glens Falls Supervisor Peter McDevitt, a Democrat, for chairman. She said he would bring “fairness and transparency” to the board and prevent decisions from being “rubber-stamped.”
Dickinson, apparently offended by the veiled criticism of the incumbent chairman, called her remarks a “diatribe” and cut her off.
McDevitt said he was offended by that description. We looked up “diatribe” in the dictionary — “a bitter or abusive criticism or denunciation.”
So much for civility in the New Year.
Twelve of the 18 supervisors present voted for Conover to return as chairman for a second year, with Republican Doug Beaty crossing over to vote for McDevitt. But Beaty insisted this was not about politics, but secrecy.
Braymer followed up with a letter to the editor and accused Dickinson of purposely not recognizing her, while also saying his remarks were “uncalled for and disrespectful.”
Braymer took it a step further, writing, “This is not the first time that Mr. Dickinson has bullied another supervisor or treated a woman on the board with blatant sexism. The national debate about the treatment of women in the legislative chambers and board rooms, and the #metoo movement, seems to be lost on the county’s current leaders.”
Those are serious accusations, but perhaps not surprising for a governing body that’s been labeled “good old boys” in recent years.
McDevitt sent an email to Conover on Jan. 5, on which he copied the Post-Star‘s editor, congratulating Conover on his re-election, hoping they could work together, but also characterizing the first meeting as “not a good day for Democracy.”
McDevitt says Braymer’s remarks were “shut down by Dickinson.”
“Some people felt cheated and left the room not feeling good about the process,” McDevitt wrote to Conover.
A day later, he wrote Conover again, saying he agreed with Braymer’s published letter.
When committee assignments came out later during the organizational meeting, Braymer was not given a chairmanship, while one supervisor is chairman of two committees and two new supervisors were made committee chairs.
That led to several supervisors questioning whether Braymer was being punished.
Beaty told Post-Star editor Ken Tingley last week, “What he (Conover) has done to Claudia Braymer is not right. She is probably one of the sharpest people on the board and she works her butt off.”
Beaty also said he had a heated exchange with Conover.
Conover said the committee assignments had been worked out weeks in advance and were not retaliation.
It all leaves us confused and concerned about the year ahead.
If none of this is political, then we have to wonder if there is some credibility to the sexism accusations.
Whatever it is, it has to end.
We urge Conover to address the issue immediately and meet with Braymer and Dickinson to find a resolution that allows all to move forward, working for what is best for the county.
Right now, the Warren County Board of Supervisors has a black eye.