Name-calling emails expose council’s issues

BY STACI WILSON

A Binghamton, N.Y., area television station uncovered emails exchanged between Montrose Borough Council members in the hours that followed their meeting walk-out on Feb. 6. The emails referred to some meeting attendees as “poachers” and one borough resident was even called a “clown.”

WBNG, Channel 12 out of Binghamton, N.Y., aired the first report on the email exchange March 13 and a link to the document was posted on the channel’s website (www.wbng.com)

The emails followed the Feb. 6 meeting council walked out of because one audience member told Council President Tom LaMont, prior to the start of the meeting, that she planned to videotape the proceeding.

The email exchange details council’s plan to propose rules restricting video and audio taping the open, public meetings.

Councilman Sean Granahan referred to meeting attendees as “thugs.” and, borough resident, Lynn Senick, was singled out and name-called a “clown” by the elected official.

Senick, a borough resident of 16 years, said she was saddened and upset by the remarks made by the councilman. “It is unacceptable for elected officials to behave like this,” she said.

Senick said she had considered attending the borough meeting scheduled for March 19 but was not certain of what she would say to them.

The meeting, however, was cancelled. A notice of its cancellation was posted on the front door of the borough building. The next borough council meeting will be held April 2, at7 p.m..

But Senick doesn’t feel council owes just her an apology.

“I think Sean (Granahan), Tony (Pickett), Craig (Reimel), and Tom (LaMont) owe all of the citizens of Montrose an apology and possible more. They do not know the law. They walked out on a meeting unnecessarily. They acted like childish bullies. And they call me a clown and a thug?” Senick said.

“As the assistant DA, Marion O’Malley gave them very poor advice and included herself in those awful email discussions about limiting access to the public. The three other councilpersons and the Mayor were dragged into this in my opinion,” she added.

Senick said she does not feel the situation can be remedied nor does she believe some of the council members are willing to address the matter.

Senick said, “I also think they need to re-open the discussion to the public over the new more stringent meeting rules. The rules make it very difficult to participate in borough meetings. If they are within Sunshine Act guidelines it is only by a hairs breadth. It may be the letter but no the spirit of the law. I think it will make it difficult for the borough to hear from their constituents in the future.”

Water woes

Of the Feb. 6 meeting, Council President Tom LaMont wrote: “This was set up by the water people. Criag Stevens was the one who requested that the issue be put on the agenda so that a video of him giving a speech could be shot.”

LaMont also called for the “injunction folks” to stop all the bulk water sales until Pennsylvania American Water can provide the proof of usage from the lake.

Several people attended the Feb. 6 meeting to address a discussion item listed on the agenda as “Jessup Street, fire hydrant.”

Stevens, owner of the hydrant, attended the Feb. 6 meeting after he was told by the borough secretary the item had already been placed on the agenda.

Stevens purchased a truck, hired a driver and has been delivering water since January to several Dimock Twp. residents who maintain their water wells were contaminated by nearby natural gas drilling.

In a Feb. 7 email, addressing concerns expressed by newly seated Councilwoman Julanne Skinner, Granahan wrote on Jessup St./Dimock: “Last year Marion and I were given permission by Council to block any water expansion to Dimock or oil and gas concerns and to assure proper adult supervision over theLakeas the sole water resource for the town.”

Granahan went on to write: “At those meetings, the decision was made to protect theLakefrom poachers, including Dimock and the oil and gas industry. Jessup is a continuation of that sage and will be part of the ultimate injunction.”

Granahan wrote that he did not anticipate the “thuggery” at the Feb. 6 meeting and then wrote that he “would have arrested them and let them spend the night in Kenny’s lock-up.”

Rules discussed

Granahan also said in the email that the solicitor was “looking into various means of restricting their access to us at a meeting” and sought to pile on a “host of restrictions.”

Skinner responded stating she did not feel any of the Feb. 6 meeting attendees acted in a disruptive manner.

On the morning of Feb. 7, Borough Solicitor Marion O’Malley wrote: “The Sunshine Law does allow for the recording of public meetings, so that’s too bad.”

O’Malley, who also serves as the county’s Assistant District Attorney, advised council hold a special meeting before the mid-month meeting to “get these rules in place.”

Those rules, adopted Feb. 14 by the council, limited the use of cameras and restricted placement of video and recording devices in the meeting room.

Council was taken to court in late February and many of the rules relating to camera usage and placement were eased at the March borough meeting.

The rules also restricted public comment to borough residents and taxpayers only. However, no public comment was listed on the agenda and no opportunity to speak was provided for during the March meeting.