We want every member of the Queensbury Town Board to protest actions he or she becomes aware of and considers unethical, every time.
But when we pressed Brian Clements, the incumbent from Ward 2, about his failure to object to an underhanded political maneuver, his response was, “There are a lot of things I didn’t protest. I didn’t protest a lot of things John Strough did, either.”
That is an unacceptable response. A Town Board member is not a potted plant.
If Clements learned of actions by public officials he considered unethical or otherwise objectionable, he had an obligation to speak up. Letting the public that elected him know when public business is being conducted improperly is a minimum requirement for the job.
The incident in question has become well-known over the past couple of weeks. It involves the use of town email accounts by certain Republican officials to settle on a way to get a candidate they wanted, instead of Tony Metivier, into office in Ward 1.
The problem was that the officials’ preferred candidate, Hal Bain, decided he didn’t want to run for office, after all. The solution they decided on was to keep Bain in the race, without telling anyone he didn’t want to serve, then let him resign after getting elected, so the board could pick his replacement.
Clements was copied on the emails. He said he read them but had “nothing to do” with anything happening in Ward 1.
Clements also defended the town attorney, John Aspland, who until this week was the vice chairman of the town Republican Committee and who approved of the strategy with Bain. Clements said it’s “OK” for the town attorney to be involved in party politics.
It’s not OK, and Clements’ opponent, Catherine Atherden, understands that.
“Town attorneys should be totally nonpartisan,” she said.
If elected, she wouldn’t be comfortable with Aspland as the board’s attorney, she said, and she would seek to replace his firm.
Although Atherden has not served in elected public office, she has a breadth of personal and professional experience and is active in the local community. She has been attending Town Board meetings since May and serves on the Clean Energy Committee, where local citizens and members of local government collaborate.
She is a member of the Tri-County New York Transition Initiative, which raises awareness about climate change and advocates for green solutions.
Atherden has lived locally for 10 years. She previously lived in London and in various spots around the country, working in information technology as a programmer, then a manager. She likes the quality of life here, and she wants to contribute to that through public service.
She will bring a new voice and a collaborative inclination to the board, she said.
The board has been suffering from divisiveness in recent months. It could use a fresh perspective like Atherden’s, especially when combined with the sense to know that the Hal Bain affair was ethically wrong, and the town attorney needs to be replaced.
Most important, Atherden is not a puppet for any political party.