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Super and board clash

Allegations of power plays abound after Town Board meeting

The Wednesday, Jan. 27, meeting of the Bethlehem Town Board saw two contentious votes that left Supervisor Sam Messina at odds with other members of the board, in what the new supervisor described as the most mean-spirited and political meeting I've ever been in.

But other members of the Town Board, who voted in unison on the two issues, said that the meeting was an example of disagreement in democracy, and accused Messina of attempting to use his office to block their initiatives from the agenda.

Meeting format sparks debate

In a split vote Wednesday, the board appointed Thomas Coffey and Steve Rice to fill two vacancies on the Planning Board.

Messina cast the dissenting vote. He approached the agenda item by proposing the vacancies be discussed among the board, but Councilman Mark Jordan countered by making a point of order that a motion must be made and seconded before discussion can be held.

Messina motioned that the board fill one of the two vacant seats, but his motion was not met by a second. Jordan then motioned that Coffey and Rice be appointed. The motion was seconded and several minutes of discussion ensued.

Messina later said Jordan's interruption was rude and counteractive to open and constructive debate.

"When you have to refer to Robert's Rules it generally means you're out of order or there's some sort of agenda to the meeting," he said. "It's about power, it's about the numbers."

Jordan later said Messina was indeed out of order and corrected himself by making a motion after the point of order was made.

"There are established, longstanding rules of order and they apply equally to each board member," Jordan said. "If one of us didn't call the supervisor out when he was out of order, we wouldn't be doing our jobs."

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