Johnsburg The Johnsburg Town Board meeting was only minutes old Tuesday when controversy erupted over the board’s decision to immediately go into executive session to interview a candidate for an open position on the planning board.
Resident Bob Nessle told the board that according to Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, the board had the option of conducting the interview in executive session or in public.
Nessle urged the board, in the interest of transparency, to conduct the meeting in public, reasoning that decisions rendered by the planning board have an impact not just on the town board but on everyone who lives in the town.
“The public has a right to hear this interview,” Nessle said.
Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow told Nessle that the board had always conducted similar interviews in executive session, but that he would defer to the board as to whether that practice would continue.
Councilman Arnold Stevens proceeded to make a motion to go into executive session. A passionate discussion ensued with Nessle continuing to urge the board to interview the candidate in public. Vanselow countered that the board had always viewed these interviews as a form of personnel action and therefore, they should be kept confidential.
Councilman Eugene Arsenault said that he had no problem with conducting future interviews for planning board candidates in public but that he’d feel more comfortable with an opinion from the town attorney before he’d agree to it. The town attorney wasn’t present at Tuesday’s meeting and Arsenault seconded Stevens’ motion that the meeting adjourn to executive session. Arsenault assured Nessle that if the town attorney didn’t object, he’d support public interviews in the future.
Vanselow called the motion and the board voted unanimously to adjourn to executive session. Vanselow cleared the room and members of the public milled about outdoors as the board spent 20 minutes interviewing Curtis Richards for a vacant spot on the Johnsburg Planning Board.