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Bethlehem town board votes down appointment guidelines

How the Town of Bethlehem makes its appointments has come under scrutiny by one of its own Town Board members.

Councilman Sam Messina put forth a proposal in early March to create guidelines for the way the town advertises and appoints people who are non-civil service to various boards and committees not deemed competitive by the state.

Messina's proposal was voted down 4-to-1 at the Wednesday, March 26, board meeting, with him casting the only vote in its favor.

Positions ruled competitive are subject to civil service exams and must follow state and county guidelines.

Currently the Town Board makes appointments once a position opens up or a term ends and those interested in a particular committee or board send a letter of interest to the supervisor. Some applicants are interviewed, some are not, but the board gets a final vote on all paid and unpaid appointments.

The people working in the town are very good people but political parties should not control these appointments, Messina said, citing his reason for the proposal. "There shouldn't be six Democratic committee members out of eight applications for a zoning board seat."

Messina's proposal stated, "The guidelines are intended to enable outstanding candidates to become aware of, express interest in, be considered and if successful, be appointed to established positions."

Messina is the board's only Independence Party member, although there were several cross endorsements between his party and the Democratic Party to the five current members of the Town Board when they ran for office. The other four members were primarily endorsed as Democrats and ran on the ballot under the party's name.

Supervisor Jack Cunningham and other board members said Messina's resolution was voted down because it proposes to regulate a problem they say doesn't exist.

However, Messina says that it appears appointments are being made on the virtues of political spoils as opposed to qualification, although the councilman was quick to point out that this is not always the case. He said he has supported many "highly qualified appointments."

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