ENFIELD, NY -- At a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Enfield Town Board managed to appoint Acting Supervisor Stephanie Redmond as town supervisor after more than two-and-a-half hours of arguing, trading insults, failing to listen to one another, and making the same accusations over and over.
The meeting, chaired by Redmond, was conducted via Zoom, and there were 34 participants logged on, including two former town supervisors, Ann Rider and Beth McGee.
Because Councilperson Michael Miles resigned last Saturday (Jan. 9), all three remaining board members had to vote in favor of appointing Redmond for the motion to pass. Redmond, a former elected councilperson, is an appointed deputy supervisor, and could not vote. Councilperson Robert Lynch used this fact to his advantage and attempted to exact promises out of everyone in the meeting before he would agree to vote at all.
After a lengthy privilege of the floor session, during which anyone in attendance has three minutes to speak, former supervisor Beth McGee and newly appointed member James Ricks supported Redmond’s appointment. Town Clerk Ellen Woods opposed the appointment because Redmond had accused her of fraud. Lynch suggested that Redmond’s appointment be put off until the Feb. 10 meeting.
Lynch then read Miles’ resignation letter into the record. Miles said he resigned because of the “toxic nature” of the town’s government. “I thought simple détente was possible,” he wrote, “I was wrong.”
Redmond read an email from a resident who was concerned that, as of Jan. 7, she had not received her tax bill. Redmond said that the county assessor received similar calls from other Enfield residents. She used this opportunity to repeat her claim from a previous meeting that Woods’ change to the budget was illegal and had also delayed sending out the bills.
Woods wished to respond to Redmond’s accusation, but it required a unanimous vote of the board to allow her to speak. Councilperson Virgina Bryant refused and instead read her motion to appoint Redmond as town supervisor. The motion was seconded by Ricks, but he said he would like to hear from Woods. Bryant agreed to do so.
Woods explained that the tax bills were late because it was the first time she had ever sent them out and there was a learning curve. The town does not have a credit card, and she did not know where to get the money to put stamps on the bills. Former town clerk Alice Linton helped her find 1,400 stamps.
While proofing the budget, Woods said she noticed that personal protective gear for the fire department appeared to be miscoded. She sought the advice of Tompkins County Assessor Jay Franklin and the town’s attorney Guy Krogh, who both thought it should come from the general fund, and she re-coded the line item without consulting the town board.
“This was legitimately a mistake,” said Woods, “but it is also a mistake to accuse me of fraud.” She said earlier that day she had corrected another fiscal error made by someone else and did not accuse anyone of fraud; she just fixed it. She also apologized to residents for the lateness of the tax bills.
The board returned to the subject of Redmond’s appointment. Lynch asked the board why Redmond had to be appointed at his meeting. “What’s the urgency? We’re getting the job done. Bills are being paid,” he said. “She’s drawing the $24,000 supervisor salary.”
During the ensuing discussion Lynch made many attempts to delay the vote, Ricks made many attempts to get everyone to rise above personal grievances, and Bryant attempted only to get her motion passed. Redmond, Woods, and Lynch went over old ground repeatedly.
Lynch first threatened to abstain from voting, which would stop the process. Bryant and Ricks said they would resign if he abstained. Lynch responded by blaming them for forcing his hand.
He then claimed there was “political maneuvering by people behind the scenes.” An impatient Ricks said he was obviously referring to McGee and told Lynch he was blocking Redmond’s appointment because he wanted to be supervisor himself.
Lynch then said he would vote in favor of Redmond if she and Woods agreed to go to a mediator to settle their differences. Redmond agreed, but asked Woods to stop trashing her on social media. Woods insisted that as a citizen that was her right.
Lynch then announced that he was a “victim of political extortion” and that Ricks and Bryant were holding a gun to his head by threatening to resign. He was being forced to either vote against his conscience or “ruin my town.” Because Miles’s seat was still vacant, if Ricks and Bryant resigned, town government would not function.
Lynch then accused Redmond of planning to immediately install McGee as deputy supervisor. Redmond dismissed this as absurd because McGee wanted no part of town government now. Redmond said she would go through the normal hiring process to find a deputy.
Redmond pointed out the inefficiencies associated with being an acting supervisor as a reason for her appointment. She said no one in town, including Lynch, understands the finances well enough to do the job. She noted that she was only able to fulfill the supervisor’s duties because McGee had taken the time to train her. She complained repeatedly about Lynch and Woods’s use of social media to trash her job performance. She said several times that in order to protect the town, the supervisor must make sure that state laws were upheld.
Ricks tried over and over to get Redmond, Lynch, and Woods to move past their differences and conduct the business of the town. As they continued to bicker, he openly entertained the idea of giving up his position on the board.
Bryant seemed to ignore much of the back and forth and tried to bring the appointment to a vote.
In a final bid to get his way before he voted, Lynch wanted Ricks and Bryant to promise to choose former supervisor Ann Rider to fill Miles’s seat. Bryant refused to make such a promise until Lynch voted for Redmond
Lynch apologized to Woods and voted for Redmond.