Headless in the Hollow? Sleepy Hollow Governance on a Roll

This publication has followed what some have referred to as a bizarre decision-making  process that took place in early February and continued until the week of March 8 within the Village of Sleepy Hollow. Others have drawn similarities between national and local governing.

Barack Obama has repeatedly made the claim that his administration inherited problems created by his predecessor George Bush. There is growing sentiment supported by a variety of national polls that it is time for Mr. Obama to focus on the present and to exhibit leadership and accept responsibility for the office he was elected to.  An increasing percentage of Independents, Democrats and Republicans appear unified on that front.

Let’s leave the global arena for now and get local. As Google Earth zooms in it focuses on the Village of Sleepy Hollow — more specifically, a first term Mayor and his Board of Trustees. Have current Mayor Ken Wray and his Board of Trustees claimed fault with the Village government they inherited eleven months ago? Did Wray uncover a Village that was financially unstable? Were there problems within the infrastructure that put residents at risk? Were the administrative departments and personnel within Village Hall unprofessional and unresponsive to those they were hired to serve? Did the freshman Mayor (and former Trustee) inherit a “back room decision making” mentality that excluded public input?  In short, was the Village of Sleepy Hollow approaching a precipice that many believe exists in the United States today?

Interestingly enough not much has been heard from Sleepy Hollow’s elected officials. However the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” does shed light, a spotlight to be exact, on the choices they have made over the past eleven months.

According to credible sources, who for the obvious reason of retaliation have asked to remain anonymous, River Journal was notified of the following incident. In February Village Treasurer Diane Jacobson was reportedly summoned to the Village Administrator Anthony Giaccio’s office. Present was Giaccio and Mayor Ken Wray. According to people within Village Hall Treasurer Jacobson was told by Wray that she would not be reappointed at the organizational meeting (after Village elections) in April. We placed a call to Wray on February 10, the day of the big snow storm that closed offices and schools alike. He couldn’t speak to us at the time so we called him again and he returned our phone call with the following message, “If you were calling about the Treasurer let me just say that it is a personnel matter and I have no further comment.” Wray may have no comment, however a section of New York State law 3-302 does comment on the term for a Village Treasurer. It states that the term of a treasurer is “two official years.” Seeing as Wray reappointed Treasurer Jacobson in April 2009 simple math points to the fact that she has served less than one of the two “official years.”

New York State law is specific to the duties of a Village Treasurer. It states that it is the Treasurer’s responsibility to have custody of all moneys belonging to the Village, and keep accounts of all receipts and expenditures…. It was reported to this publication that the Village Administrator had been given that responsibility along with the ability to sign checks for the Village, and that the Treasurer no longer had access to her computer. Is this the same Treasurer that was lauded for her accomplishments by Village auditors and Trustee Schroedel at a recent work session? Calls and emails to elected officials and the Village Administrator to corroborate this transfer of the Treasurer’s responsibilities were not returned. In light of the upcoming Village Budget for 2010/2011 the curtailment of Sleepy Hollow’s Chief Fiscal Officer, namely its Treasurer, is noteworthy.

When the decisions made by Sleepy Hollow’s newly elected and self-proclaimed “transparent” team are scrutinized, a pattern takes shape. Starting with the former Village Clerk being released after last year’s election, followed by the land use zoning reversal for the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery last fall, and most recently curtailing the Village Treasurer’s State-mandated responsibilities, one wonders “Who’s next?” Will this administration be remembered for all the things they have undone and if so, will their legacy be etched in stone and read, “Headless in the Hollow?” Since gaining the majority on Sleepy Hollow’s Board, two  years ago, the list of un-doings is as follows: failure to meet with GM in Executive Session over the development of the site and GM’s subsequent suspension of talks; notification that former Administrator Dwight Douglas would not be reappointed; notification that Village Clerk Sonja Goldstein Suss would not be reappointed; reversal of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery zoning (that many believe was initiated by a small interest group close to Village Trustees). Lastly and most important is the current situation with Sleepy Hollow’s Treasurer —  not only in terms of her much needed service with the Village’s budgetary process, but also in terms of possibly putting the Village at risk as far as State law is concerned.

During the week of March 8, Diane Jacobson’s computer was turned back on and the curtailment of her Treasurer’s responsibilities lifted. She is (for the moment) able to exercise her State-mandated responsibilities. One could say that Sleepy Hollow’s Mayor and Board of Trustees owe residents an explanation if, in fact, there ever was one.

What remains to be seen is whose head will roll next in Sleepy Hollow and what rationale will prevail with the elected officials. It’s a scary thought and Halloween is still seven months away.

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