Monday, March 9, 2009

Newburgh is far from Kansas, my friends...

I know I promised to write some more ideas about the police department. But I have found out that there is more to explode about that missing $17,000 dollars. So I am waiting to see the fireworks.

During the City Council meeting, last night, a strange thing occurred. The entire audience, including this writer, went brain dead. It was a collective gasp of our greater sense to think and question. I know it is not an easy thing to do: get up to the mike and say something wise and intelligible. Occasionally, people do just that. But just not last night.

I am talking, of course, about the vote last night to make Dwight Douglas, the former village administrator of Sleepy Hollow, the interim City Manager of the City of Newburgh. He is certainly no village idiot. He was very composed and collective as Newburgh’s finest came around one at a time to give him a slap in face. Some said he was immoral. Others got calls from local Westchester County reporters to say that Douglas was under a cloud of criminal investigations for using a municipal department to make improvements on the deck of his house in Peekskill. It was actually like a lynching and the rope was made of rumors and innuendos.

It was surprising that afterwards, Douglas stood up and calmly said that he was not under any cloud of criminal investigation. It didn’t make any sense that he was so calm. But at least he comported himself with silent dignity in the face of Newburgh’s finest rumormongers.

The only person who made any sense last night was Councilwoman Christine Bello. She looked so stately and professional. She bore her responsibility to serve the Newburgh public well. She had done her homework. She prepared and delivered a thoughtful statement.

Bello addressed the fact that she had done some research and found that Rotfeld Consulting Group, LLC didn’t exist. There was no record of incorporation for the executive search agency that provided Mr. Douglas as a candidate. But it gets better: is the use of a non-employee to “govern and execute” council policy a violation of the City Charter? These were two cogent questions that went entirely unaddressed. No deliberation, no comment from Corporation Counsel… nada…nada.

Bello prepared another statement with the expectation that her colleagues, minus Councilwoman Dickerson, would vote to install Mr. Douglas into the office of City Manager on a part-time basis. Bello explained that this was another example of senseless City Council decision-making. There was another highly recommended candidate with far more experience in running a municipality and law enforcement who was half the price that could have been considered. But the cowardice of the other council members made it impossible for this individual to even get an interview. That person is George Meyers, former New Windsor Town Supervisor.

Now we have an interim city manager who is already gimped by negative public reaction to his appointment. He seems to have some knowledge of how to run a village. But it doesn’t take a village administrator to run a city. And I am certain that Mr. Douglas realizes that he is no longer in Kansas.

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