THURMAN — Thurman Town Board member Gail Seaman and Town Clerk Susan Staples got into a physical spat Wednesday following the conclusion of another contentious board meeting.
State Police said that Seaman had requested to leave through a doorway that was already locked and allegedly put her hands on Staples to get her hands to unlock it. Staples then put her hands on Seaman. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office and State Police responded, but no charges were filed.
Staples and Seaman did not return messages left for comment. That incident came after board members feuded for almost three hours on the town’s outstanding $300,000 debt and the problems of white space internet and ended up with no clearer picture of the future of the town.
The board voted 3-0 on a revised resolution to delete the positions of secretary/bookkeeper, all town maintenance workers, landfill superintendent, cemetery superintendent and cleaner. Supervisor Cynthia Hyde criticized the resolution passed on June 29 as not being specific enough, so Seaman presented a new resolution detailing from which accounts to transfer money.
Seaman and board members Brenda Ackley and Doug Needham voted in favor. Hyde and board member Joan Harris were opposed.
The three-member majority believes the cuts are necessary because of a fiscal crisis resulting from the town’s failure to pay a $300,000 bond anticipation note that came due on June 1. Glens Falls National Bank has frozen the town’s general fund account because Thurman had not paid the loan it took out to pay for a new water system. At issue was the town had failed to obtain approval from the state Comptroller’s Office, which was required because 37 percent of the town’s assessed value is made up of state-owned land. Town officials had thought they were under the 30 percent threshold.
Because of the error, the town could not convert the note into a bond.
Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, sponsored a bill to retroactively grant Thurman approval. The legislation passed the Senate but did not come to the floor in the Assembly. Stec said Friday he believes that the Legislature will come back later this summer and the bill could be considered then. Among the unresolved issues are renewing red-light cameras for New York City and extending charter schools.
Seaman said at the meeting that she does not want to wait. She said the town should pay off the debt.
“There’s nothing in sight that the Legislature is going to go back into session,” she said.
Hyde criticized Seaman for lack of transparency in providing the resolutions ahead of time. She said she did not want to vote on the resolution because an attorney has not looked at it.
“There is no way of telling if this is legal or not. With the track record of Mrs. Seaman, I do not trust this resolution,” he said.
Hyde and Seaman verbally sparred throughout the meeting.
Hyde at one point said there is a lot of information being spread in the news media and in the community.
“The sky is purple and it has pink polka dots. Look, there’s flying saucers landing in front of the Town Hall. There’s a tyrannosaurus rex out there,” she said.
Among the line items that were cut were equipment for the town justices, Town Board contractual items, insurance, supervisor’s stipend for being financial officer, laboratory fees and historian equipment.
The programs for the Office for the Aging budget, which provides funding for a senior van, was also cut.
“You can’t take that away. You’re a mean person,” Hyde told Seaman.
“She’s totally ripping the taxpayers off in the need to validate a mistake that she and her board made in 2016,” she added.
Hyde was referring to legislation that authorized the supervisor to borrow the money for the water system project that was approved in December 2016 when Seaman and former Supervisor Evelyn Wood were on the board. However, the issuance of the bond anticipation note happened in May 2017 under Hyde’s tenure.
Hyde did not respond to a question from a reporter after the meeting about whether she would pay off the debt as directed by the resolution.
Seaman said among the options to address is the supervisor not following the directives passed by the board is to file an Article 78 lawsuit. A citizen could also bring an action.
Audience member Jerry Shpario asked if board members Needham and Ackley had any input in writing the resolution. Both acknowledged they had not.
“I don’t understand how people can vote to pass a resolution that they don’t understand, don’t know nothing about,” he said.
Resident Winnie Martin said Hyde is not following the wishes of a majority of the board.
“You’re saying the five-member board is irrelevant,” she said.
Martin said it was Hyde’s responsibility to verify that the information as correct.
Even before the formal meeting started, Seaman argued with Hyde about which bills have been paid and which have not and what is in the report.
Hyde repeatedly has insisted that if the other board members want more information, they have to come to the Town Hall to view it for themselves.
The board also voted 3-2 not to pay the bills. Seaman has said previously that the all the prepaid bills will be taken care of and salaries paid. This only affects submitted vouchers.
The board also agreed to give Seaman the keys to access the white space poles. Seaman said if restoring the service, which has been out to some customers in the town for over a month, requires any money she will bring it back to the Town Board.
The number of white space subscribers has dwindled to 15, according to Hyde.