CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — In a surprise move during Monday night’s organizational meeting of the Town Board Supervisor Philip Barrett appointed the board’s newest member, Anthony Morelli, to the position of deputy supervisor.
In doing so Barrett pulled the appointment from longtime Councilwoman Lynda Walowit who had held the appointed position for the last 12 years.
Board members will receive a yearly salary of $16,503 for their part-time elected positions in 2021. The title of deputy supervisor adds $4,578 to the salary of whoever holds the title.
The yearly organizational meetings for local governments generally are held immediately prior to the first meeting of the year. The meeting is centered on a long resolution making the appointments or, in many cases, reappointments to the various boards and governmental bodies that keeps the administration functioning.
The meetings generally draw a handful of appointees who come to the meetings to make sure they receive their reappointments. Occasionally there are surprises where members of boards or committees do not receive their reappointments. Most who are not reappointed have made their intentions clear beforehand.
One of the major duties of the deputy supervisor is to lead Town Board meetings in the absence of the supervisor. Barrett rarely misses meetings and though there are other duties involved with the position, having the deputy supervisor lead a Town Board meeting is an infrequent occurrence in Clifton Park.
As Monday’s organizational meeting neared a board vote Walowit, who has served on the Town Board for more than two decades, asked to make a statement.
“I am proud to have served as Deputy Supervisor for the Town of Clifton Park for the past several years,” she said. “Legally this appointment is one of the few that is entirely given at the pleasure of the supervisor and not needing the support or approval of the town board. Throughout my more than 25 years of service to the town I take pride in participating in the major accomplishments of my tenure. I am most proud of my efforts in employee relations and responsibilities to my constituents. I am disappointed in the unprofessional and disrespectful manner I was relieved of this position, only being notified late this afternoon by a fellow staff member. I promise my continued hard work and dedication to the staff and my constituents as a town board member.”
Walowit said later she learned of the change only upon reading a copy of the organizational resolution she’d received a few hours before the meeting and got confirmation from a member of the town staff.
Morelli served as a part-time town attorney prior to being appointed to the board in October to fill the seat vacated by Jim Romano. In making the appointment Barrett passed over Walowit’s fellow board member Councilwoman Amy Standaert, a member of the board for seven-and-a-half years.
Standaert, Walowit and the recently resigned Councilman James Whalen challenged several of Barrett’s actions undertaken in the late fall with regard to the 2021 budget and a major departmental adjustment.
In responding to Walowit’s statement, Barrett stated that everyone has different skill sets in situations as time progresses.
“The main job of the deputy supervisor is to fill in and run town board meetings,” Barrett said. “The reason is the recent large weather winter storm was a reminder of how they quickly they can restrict travel. Anthony can easily walk to town hall from his home. He possesses extensive experience with town operations and his years of military experience have prepared him for the leadership responsibilities under difficult conditions. Attendance at town meetings and events is also a very important factor of the job that we do each day and that is particularly true during the pandemic.”
The switch in appointments and the manner in which it was done did not go unnoticed by the town’s Republican Committee. Shortly after the meeting ended posts to the group’s Facebook page appeared to indicate a level of dissatisfaction with Barrett’s leadership.
In a statement posted to the page the Committee said the supervisor lacked the respect to discuss the move with Walowit prior to the meeting.
“Clifton Park residents expect their leaders to act respectfully and to communicate effectively,” the post stated. “For a Town Elected Official to be blindsided in this manner is disgraceful.”
A second post made at the same time had a quote from Revolutionary War firebrand Sam Adams. The quote stated, “If ever the Time
should come, when vain and aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experienced Patriots to Prevent its Ruin”.