by Ken Signorello
July 12, 2020
(starting around the 2-hour mark)
If you didn’t tune into Monday night's Essex Joint Selectboard / Trustee meeting, you missed quite a show! In short, the Selectboard Chair over-stepped, got called out, the Trustees got insulted and then walked out.
This meeting had two major items on its agenda: continued merger charter drafting and a policing discussion, which the public felt was owed them after a meeting last month in which Town officials talked, rather than listened, for the two solid hours.
It began with SB Chair Elaine Haney attempting to punt the Policing discussion off to the seemingly surprised Community Justice Center (CJC), the restorative justice arm of the Essex Police Department, among others.
Although not an executive, Haney said she made an executive decision. She and Village President Andrew Brown sent a memo to Evan Teich, directing him to task the CJC. Note, Village Trustees have no budgetary jurisdiction over the townwide PD.
This dynamic duo wasn’t about to let the Town Charter stand in their way. The end-run around the Selectboard did not sit well with Andy Watts, who said this should be discussed and decided by the board, not executed by a single member. He also noted that the public wanted to speak to the Selectboard, and the board needed to listen first and then decide what to do.
Haney dared Watts to make a motion of his own as to how to move forward on policing. And he did! He moved for a proper public meeting focused on hearing the public’s thoughts on policing, and it passed. Haney lit into Watts because there is so much else that needs to be done (like . . . Merger).
That’s when things went sideways. Haney was admonished by Vince Franco and multiple members of the public for circumventing both the board and
Fireworks at Joint Board Meeting, July 6
Essex Selectboard Chair Elaine Haney
at July 6th Joint Meeting
the public, and for treating Watts disrespectfully for simply pointing out that she had overstepped.
That was just the intro!
The Trustees, not wanting to miss a good meal, tried to elbow their way to the Selectboard table via Watts’ motion to listen. They attempted a motion of their own to join in. The Selectboard, however, declined to make that invitation!
This set off a chain reaction: The Trustees felt “Slapped in the Face”. Brown came to the rescue of the visibly distressed Haney, by calling a brief recess. During that time — I don’t know this for a fact but — there must have been a slew of text messages, chats or calls because after returning, the Trustees promptly adjourned! Leaving Haney even more distressed!
This turn of events was something one 14-year veteran of SB meetings said they had never seen the likes of before.
With shock and awe still in the air, Selectboard member Vince Franco immediately motioned to adjourn the Selectboard, and after a pregnant pause Pat Murray seconded. The vote: 4 to 1.
What was left on the agenda for just the Selectboard you might ask? Merger!
Haney must have been disappointed to not be able to continue down the road toward Hotel November with her friends on the Trustees. Watts apparently wanted to carry on without the Trustees to complete the agenda. Possibly hoping to actually get something done.
The message from the public was clear: Policing Now; Merger later, if ever.
Town residents who live inside the Village can and should absolutely participate in this policing conversation as Town residents. Unified manager Teich explained that scheduling for 10 is more challenging then scheduling for 5.
It was suggested that the Village government can always call its own listening session, and maybe it should.