Accusations fly at Johnsburg board meeting

JOHNSBURG As two town residents pushed the Johnsburg Town Board on Tuesday to take action regarding allegations of illegal use of town resources, board members pushed back, telling the pair that the board wont be bullied. You can sit there and bully all you want, said Boardmember Eugene Arsenault. But this board is going to pursue this in an appropriate manner, relying on the counsel of the town attorney. Arsenault was reacting to a literal barrage of accusations from Roger Mosher and Peter Heid who, quoting from a variety of legal opinions, accused the board of neglecting its duty and accused the town attorney of not knowing the law. Im a freakin high school dropout and Ican pick up the phone and find this stuff out,Mosher told the board, with agitation in his voice. Idont know why this board couldnt do that. The firestorm swirls around accusations first brought to light by resident James Slick at a Nov. 9 Town Board meeting in which Slick alleged that town highway crews used town equipment on town time to cut and transport firewood for personal use. At the time, the board referred the issue to town attorney Tony Jordan for an opinion on how it should proceed and to newly elected town Highway Superintendent Curtis Richards for an investigation of the allegations. At a board meeting in January, Richards reported back to the board that he was unable to determine if the allegations were true and proposed a policy to curb abuses in the future. Tuesday, Jordan offered the board his insight on the issue. If someone wanted to pursue a criminal action, theyd file a complaint with a the State Police or the sheriff, Jordan told the board. It should be someone who has first-hand knowledge of the alleged crime. If someone wishes the town board to look into a grievance against an employee, it should be in writing with proof of the allegations for the board to take action. That brought Heid from his seat. Pacing before the board like a prosecuting attorney, Heid read from what he said was an opinion from the state Controller that said that it was the duty of a town board to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, including misuse of town highway equipment by town personnel. It seems pretty clear to me, Heid said. Board members pointed out that theyd received nothing in writing from anyone making any allegation. Mosher rose from his chair again and asked the board what more they needed other than the verbal allegations he has made at recent board meetings. That brought a sharp rebuke from board member Sterling Goodspeed. The real answer goes back to what weve said from the beginning,Goodspeed said. You report crimes to police agencies. You know that Roger. Have you done that? Mosher responded by asking why no one on the Town Board had done that. Its your job, he said. When Jordan told the board that if the board determined that the cost of disposing of the wood would be greater than what it could be sold for, therefore rendering it valueless, the board could give it away to charity, Mosher strenuously disagreed with the attorneys opinion. Its illegal to give it away,Mosher said, reading from another opinion from the state Controller. Jordan told the board that he refused to argue law with Mosher but if the town wished, hed provide them the basis for his opinion. Goodspeed, an attorney himself, attempted to explain the difference between a controllers opinion and a court ruling. A controllers opinion is just that, an opinion,Goodspeed said. It could later be upheld by a court, not supported by a court, rendered moot by a contrary opinion from a subsequent controller. Later in the meeting Mosher accused the board of letting Goodspeed speak for the board. Why dont we ever hear the rest of the board speak,Mosher asked. Can you even talk? That comment brought Arsenault into the discussion, telling Mosher and Heid that the board would not be bullied. We asked our attorney for an opinion,Arsenault said. Thats why we have a town attorney. To advise us. Tonight is the first chance weve had to hear from him. In the end, the board asked Mosher and Heid to put their allegations in writing and provide any proof they might have. So youll submit something? Town Supervisor Bill Thomas said. Do that and well look into it. Ultimately though, the board will likely take one of two actions, Goodspeed told the pair. If what you present rises to something criminal, were probably going to refer it to the sheriff,he said. If its not criminal, Goodspeed said, the matter will be dealt with pursuant to town personnel policy, by allowing the accused employee a fair hearing.

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