The inability of Stewart Manor Mayor Gerard Tangredi and the village’s board of trustees to find common ground boiled over when the latter proposed and passed a resolution to ban monthly board meetings until the March elections. The board will instead hold work session meetings on the last Thursday of every month where, according to Deputy Mayor Michael Onorato, the proposer of the resolution, “We will be paying all bills, passing necessary resolutions and providing necessary leadership to support the continuation of all vital services. As such, this motion or resolution that I am putting forth will cancel the remaining scheduled board meetings until the mayor corrects the problem that resulted in time and significant legal fees and fills the deputy clerk position in a correct and legal manner. Or, until the next election scheduled in March.”
The issue that brought this scenario to a head dates back to Tangredi wanting to appoint a new employee to an open deputy village clerk-treasurer slot without having that person go through the proper vetting process required for the position. And while this can be considered a mayoral appointment, according to the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, it is subject to board approval.
While the mayor stayed quiet during this segment of the meeting, save to defend his record (“We have accomplished tons of items. We have upgraded, repaired and replaced…everything has been done.”), he went on record in a July issue of Garden City Life to defend his approach to this issue.
“The village clerk’s office is in desperate need, and it’s my responsibility to ensure that the office runs and that this village operates properly…the position has been open since April and it needs to be filled. So, this appointment is effective immediately, as of the morning of tomorrow, July 6.”
The board did not approve the appointment and a stalemate has continued to exist since then. The acrimony between the board and mayor has led to Kenneth Gray, a partner in the law firm of Bee, Ready, Fishbein, Hatter & Donovan, being appointed outside counsel by the board. This, in addition to Stewart Manor already retaining the services of village attorney Benjamin Truncale. Gray, who was in attendance, weighed in with a summation of how easily this situation could seemingly be resolved.
“It would seem imprudent to me not to include the other members of the board of trustees in the process of the vetting, the interviews, etc., because otherwise, the board of trustees can not make an informed decision about the appointment, because it’s subject to their approval,” Gray said. “I think what this board is simply asking, is to please be actively involved in the vetting and interview process so that they don’t come up to a board meeting, the mayor throws a name out and the other four trustees say that they haven’t seen a résumé and they have no idea who this person is. It’s quite possible that all five members might agree on a particular person and it might be somebody who already works for the village. We don’t know. I think the board’s complaint or issue is that they’re not being invited into the vetting process.”
Tangredi’s rigid management style was equally frustrating for those in attendance at the meeting.
“The trustees are the ones who were elected to help you run the whole village and you’re not allowing them in the process,” resident Tom Skinner said. “This is all wrong. It’s ridiculous.”
While Tangredi was openly asked to step down from his position by a number of board meeting attendees, the only person with the power to remove him from his post is the governor of the state. According to New York state law, “The chief executive officer of every city and the chief or commissioner of police, commissioner or director of public safety or other chief executive officer of the police force by whatever title he may be designated, of every city may be removed by the governor after giving to such officer a copy of the charges against him and an opportunity to be heard in his defense.”
For Onorato, the chances of the two sides convening are rather slim despite the fact that there was a history of working together in the past.
“To the mayor’s credit, we worked together in the earlier days. As time moved on, there was no collegial attitude. The wall just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. What’s going to happen here is that this will be a no-win solution and the residents will lose. We’re volunteers as trustees—and the mayor too. We don’t want to come down here and argue in conflict. Yet we’ve had this consistently on more than one vote,” he said. “If somebody doesn’t agree, the object of a leader is to coerce and to try and get that person to their side. That’s called democracy. That’s called governing. That’s called how you work together. I see no resolution here. Four to one is going to stay.”