Has the family town of Malta become dysfunctional?
These and other questions were posed at a standing-room-only town board meeting Thursday, Nov. 8, during which accusations flew, tears were shed, voices were raised and people speaking were either cheered or jeered.
During a public hearing on the proposed 2008 budget, members of the audience spoke heatedly for 80 minutes, with most comments surrounding the proposed cuts in the town clerk's office and its political ramifications.
During board budget workshops to craft the 2008 spending plan, a change was proposed to decrease the hours of the deputy town clerk from full-time to 20 hours per week, representing a 19 percent decrease in the overall budget for the office of Flo Sickels, full-time town clerk.
Supervisor Paul Sausville expressed his frustration at the board's attempts to reduce the clerk's budget to $60,000, which he said was the lowest of any clerk's in Saratoga County.
I think it's irresponsible for the town to be at the lowest level; it's totally inappropriate, said Sausville.
In February 2007, board members Cliff Lange and Sue Nolen questioned the hours Sickels was working as town clerk, and whether her employment in the Saratoga County clerk's office was overlapping with her town job. The board members used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Sickels' time sheets to review the number of hours she worked for the county.
Thursday night, members of the public rallied against the cuts, speaking aggressively to defend Sickels and the deputy clerk, Linda Duprey, who would bear the financial brunt of the departmental cuts, if enacted.
"The previous town clerk had three deputies, and in my mind I keep wondering if this is a way to attack the office," said Claudia Smith. "I've lived here 60 years and I've never seen such nonsense."