Minutes of the meeting will be posted as soon as we receive them.
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By Brian Brock
After having read in the spring issue of this newspaper about the 2014 audit of the Town of Franklin financial operations by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC), you might have wondered how it could be the first time that you learned of this critique. Arguably, this is because the town board did what it could to keep this report from the citizens — legally and then some.
Now Report 2014M-32 can be inspected at the town hall during office hours. (It had been lost in the files.) The OSC is more accommodating. Anytime, this audit can be read at your leisure, printed, or downloaded for free at: https://goo.gl/nYBygL.
This audit of the fiscal year 2012 was extended into 2013 and then published in 2014. After reviewing a draft of this report, the town board responded with a letter to the OSC in April of 2014. After the report was published, the town board placed a copy in the town files and placed the required notice in the back of The Walton Reporter in May. After reviewing the final report, the town board submitted the required Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to the OSC in July. In all this time, there is no written record of this audit being discussed in the public meetings of the town board. Unfortunately, video-recording of the monthly meetings did not begin until later in December 2014.
This is extraordinary. Though there is no law requiring that the town board inform the townspeople of an audit, this is the accepted common practice. Last year, the proposed bio-digester project for the Village of Walton was audited by the OSC. The resulting report was discussed at the April 2017 meeting of the mayor and trustees, and their discussion was covered in the next issue of The Reporter. In contrast, the Franklin Town Board kept its own council. In the last year, audits of local governments were done for towns of Colechester (financial condition), Walton (incompatible duties), Hancock (transfer station operations), and Sidney (budget review). In 2015, Delaware County was audited both for third-party contractual services and for vehicle usage and disposal. These boards kept their residents informed through monthly public meetings.
The NY Open Meeting Law does require that the business of the town board be conducted in front of the townspeople, with a few exceptions. From the Public Officers Law, Article 7, §100, Legislative Declaration: It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only climate under which the commonweal will prosper and enable the governmental process to operate for the benefit of those who created it.
The New York Department of State advises on compliance with the Open Meetings Law through its Committee on Open Government. In response to an inquiry by this newspaper, the committee rendered an advisory opinion of April 21, 2017 (OML-AO-5544) that the submission of an official CAP to the Office of the State Comptroller requires a motion by the town board. The minutes of the Franklin Town Board record no such motion. Our board, in continuing to avoid discussing the audit in front of the townspeople, violated this law.
Under the OML, town boards may go into executive session to discuss some confidential matters. Topics that may be discussed in private are limited under the law and must be declared beforehand. Franklin Town Board went into executive session in April, May, and June (but not in July) of 2014 to discuss contract negotiation. No mention was made of discussing the audit. (This is just, as well as an audit is not a legal topic for an executive session according to COG.) What is more, any motions made in executive session must be recorded in the minutes.
Supervisor Taggart and councilmen Grant and Sitts were in office when OSC issued its audit. Councilmen Bruno and Smith (Donald T.) were elected in November 2015.
Our board did not use the opportunity of their past two years of dissembling to correct the lapses by the supervisor submitting the overdue financial reports (now totaling eight) and by the councilmen preforming annual audits. Instead, in the absence of pressure from the townspeople, our board continued business as usual.
This secrecy is part of a long-standing pattern of governance by the Franklin Town Board. Before their monthly meetings, the lack of an agenda leaves we-the-people uninformed on what will be discussed. During meetings, the lack of periodic reports by appointed officials (assessor, code enforcement officer, etc.) leaves we-the-people uninformed of what their government has been doing. After meeting, the lack of postings to a website leaves we-the-people uninformed of what just happened. We have a board that that informs its townspeople as little as is legally possible.
More disturbingly, it raises the question: What else do we not know about decisions that our town board makes illegally outside of public meetings?
Correction: In the spring issue, we misstated that Mr. Taggart was appointed supervisor before being elected in November of 2013. Therefore, Supervisor Smith (Donald M.) is responsible for fail-ing to file annual financial reports for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Supervisor Taggart is responsible for the years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. We regret the error.
By Robert Lamb
We are what we experience throughout our lives. Reading has inspired me to do the things I have done and to live a lifestyle outside of mainstream society.
Much of my early inspiration came from the National Geographic magazine. Unlike many young boys, I devoured stories about the wilderness for the content, not the nude natives. One article described life in Siberia and featured a rugged fifty year-old living a sustenance lifestyle. Another described the end of gold mining in Alaska due to low prices and the Second World War. There were articles about the caribou herds and huge salmon runs, and bears, lots of bears. Black bears and giant brown bears inhabit Alaska’s great lands. Monstrous man-killing polar bears stalk villages in the north.
Film also influenced my life decisions. In the sixties, theaters would show fillers between the main features. These short film clips of Alaska and its people had a profound effect on my young psyche. I began to view society as something to take in small doses. I once read a time study of modern man’s lifestyle. A man with a family of three would work ten years to provide food for them. Twenty years to provide a home, etc., etc. I vowed to break out of that mold. I decided early on to become a homesteader. Like the early settlers, I would take a barren piece of land and build a home and life for my family.
After graduating high school in 1975 with a young bride and first child, I was devastated to learn Alaska no longer offered land for homesteading. The program had ended a year earlier. After the birth of my second child, their mother left. With custody of two children, the prospect of ever seeing the land I dreamed so much about seemed remote.
As fate would have it, I met a beautiful young woman who shared my vision of a simple lifestyle. We purchased fifteen wooded acres on the edge of the Catskill Mountains. We started out in an old office trailer and with my two children and our six-month-old son, we began our lives as urban homesteaders. We put in gardens and raised animals. We had cows and pigs, chickens and turkeys. We hunted and fished. Meanwhile, we had to keep jobs. Unlike homesteading in Alaska, here in New York we have to pay taxes for the privilege of owning land. We needed autos to get to work, and of course we needed insurance on the cars and property. So many demands on a man’s time can leave little time to enjoy it all. I have no regrets about my choices. I am proud to have never used fossil fuels to heat my home. I still cut my own firewood.
As the years went by and the kids moved out on their own, I was suddenly floored with the desire to follow some of my earlier dreams. I applied for a job in Denali, Alaska, and that is how Alaska became my mistress. While working there allowed me to see Alaska, it was not enough; I had to experience Alaska. I wanted to feel it, smell it and revel in its wildness. I wanted a piece of it for my own. I purchased five acres near Indian River from the state, and my best friend Jared helped me build a cabin with views of Denali, the tallest mountain on the North American continent. I felt I had finally come home. Home to something I had only ever read about. The land was fifty miles from the nearest phone, yet still I felt the need to get further away from civilization.
So my friend Jared and I bought another piece of wilderness heaven.
President Roosevelt set aside five thousand square miles of wilderness around Prince William Sound called the Chugach National Forest. It sits among several state parks. Wilderness as God created it, with no humans for sixty miles around. It is here, surrounded by towering glacier-topped mountains and a bay full of life, that my soul feels at home. With eagles soaring overhead and bears inhabiting my dreams, I am home. The breaching Minke whales and chattering rafts of otters make the bay a natural entertainment. There are five kind of salmon, as well as halibut and rockfish. Moose and Sitka deer share the forest and tundra with the black and brown bears.
What more could a wandering spirit ask for?
Many things, I might reply.
I have yet to swim in the Arctic Ocean or raft the mighty Yukon River.
Still seeking those boyhood dreams…
By Christina Milliman
Documenting Delaware and Otsego County Farmers, Thirty Years Later
In 2015, The Farmers’ Museum acquired all of the negatives and photographs by Charles Winters taken for his book with Jean Simonelli, TOO WET TO PLOW. The book documents the story of farmers’ lives through a compilation of stories and Charlie’s memorable photo-documentation. Intimate portraits of men and women who worked together to keep a farm running, and children who helped on the farm, were shown in black and white and vivid color. For some children, the farm was a playground of sorts, for others it was a means to learn about animals, the earth and growing food, or hard work. They saw their parents put in time, twenty-four/seven. A life of work; a life without long vacations and with little break.
The regular meeting of the Franklin Town Board was called to order at 7:30 P.M. Present were Supervisor Jeff Taggart, Garret Sitts, David Grant, Donnie Smith, Dwight Bruno, Mark Laing and Paul Warner. Also present were Dave Tuthill, Brian Brock, Don Hebbard, JR Bogert, Jo Ann Smith,Tony Breuer, Michael Wallace, Roger Reed, Pete Nero and Bill Young.
The minutes were read from the May 2, 2017 meeting. Garret Sitts approved the minutes as read. Donnie Smith seconded the motion and all agreed.
Dave Tuthill gave a report for the Kellogg Franklin Trust. They are waiting to hear about another grant from the O’Connor Foundation. Continue reading…
Special Town Board Meeting:
- New Town Insurance
- Delhi Telephone Proposal For Fiber Optic High Speed Broadband To Franklin Town
The regular meeting of the Franklin Town Board was called to order at 7:30 P.M. by Supervisor Jeff Taggart. Present were Garret Sitts, David Grant, Donnie Smith, Dwight Bruno, Paul Warner and Mark Laing. Also present were Mike Ritz, Roger Reed, Pete Nero, Mike Wallace, Bill Young, Tony Breuer, Marjorie Kellogg, Brian Brock, Don Hebbard and Undersheriff Craig DuMond.
The minutes from the April 4th meeting were read. Garret Sitts made a motion to accept the minutes. Dwight Bruno seconded them and all present agreed. Mirabito Fuel Group would not let us pre-pay for diesel fuel. The Town will pre-pay for fuel oil for next year. Continue reading…
The regular monthly meeting of the Franklin Town Board was called to order at 7:30 P.M. by Supervisor Jeff Taggart. Present were Garret Sitts, David Grant, Donnie Smith, Dwight Bruno, Paul Warner and Highway Superintendant Mark Laing. Also present were Debra Renwick, Roger Reed, Pete Nero, Jamie Archibald, David Tuthill, Brian Brock, Don Hebbard, Tony Breuer, Bill Young and Robert Eggler.
Dave Tuthill gave an update on the Kellogg Educational Community Center. They have acquired three grants from the Delaware Academy Kellogg Memorial Fund. They have also completed the fund raising of $500.00 for the matching grant from the O’Conner Foundation. The new space for the community center is starting to get organized. They are talking with Veltans Landscaping about the updating of the little league field. Their meetings are the last Wednesday of the month at the Treadwell Firehouse from April to October. Continue reading…