Chaos in Kent - A New York Journal News Editorial

Financial review, and decorum, needed in town

Kent residents have to be everything but content with the leadership of town affairs. The notorious infighting between Supervisor Annmarie Baisley and Town Board members, and now speakers at board meetings, has reached perhaps an all-time high; a Town Board members resignation will likely lead to a nasty showdown over who will fill her seat until an election can be held in November, the towns accountant resigned last week and Kent's finances are in vague enough shape to confuse anybody.

Enough already. The fighting at work sessions and board meetings has to stop, although we agree that a censure proceeding against Baisley for her "disregard" for the board should proceed. The empty board seat should be filled as soon as possible, preferably with a resident who can bring some needed decorum to the board. And the state must step in and perform an independent financial review of Kent as soon as possible.

Rules of order need to be followed at town meetings. Just last year, one resident described the Republican-dominated board as having "the professionalism of a second-grade class." Unfortunately, even with the departure of Dennis Illuminate and Patricia Madigan, and the arrival of Kathy Doherty and Louis Tartaro, not enough has changed.

The board recently adopted a policy pushing public comment to the end of town Board meetings, instead of being allowed item-by-item, as was the previous, and preferable, practice. Frustration by people who want to speak could be limited if Baisley can improve the running of the meetings. Town Board members and the public must insist on it.

Two-term board member Christine Woolley has resigned, she said, to devote time as deputy county clerk of the state Department of Motor Vehicles. The opening on the board paves the way for an appointment for the remainder of this year that we hope for Kents sake, is filled with a calm, deliberative person who has Kent's overall interests at heart. Richard Quaglietta, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the board in 1997 and 1999, should be among those considered.

As for town finances, an intensive review and corrective plan are needed. In 1999, the state issued a report covering all of 1998 through May 10, 1999, that took issue with the size of the town's fund balance, and criticized its accounting records for being incomplete and inaccurate, staff writer Michael Risinit reported.

It sounds like the same thing is happening all over again. The town's fund balance apparently is in the millions of dollars - "apparently" because the number seems to change depending on who is doing the talking. This after public approval of borrowing $5 million for a town center. And the recent resignation letter by former town accountant Lisette Mendola is filled with troubling criticisms, particularly about Baisley's heavy-handedness, that needs vetting.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005