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Thread: Residents request clarification on language use/policy changes

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    Residents request clarification on language use/policy changes

    At a previous town board meeting, resident Don Symer asked council member Donna Stempniak when the language changed that now reads that the Town ‘acknowledges’ issuance of building permits from ‘approve’ as done in the past. Stempniak declared it was always that way. Symer in turn declared it was not. Stempniak then said to Symer, “Prove it!”

    Symer did research and addressed the town board Monday evening on the matter. He hand handouts distributed to the members of the town board that contained copies of past building permit resolutions that showed ‘approved’ was the language used in 1993 and two examples of 2001 resolutions sponsored by Stempniak that read ‘approved’.

    Stempniak explained that the language in the past may have said approved, but the intent was only to acknowledge building permit issuance based on the due diligence of the Building Department and they’re certification. “They are the experts.”

    Stempniak and other board members spoke on the chaos that would ensue from having residents as well as developers held up by the formality of town approval. “It’s a short building season and someone having a roof leak could not wait a month to contract and have a roof installed.

    Symer made it clear he understood the ramifications of having a waiting period and was not indicating he wanted a formal process where the board had the final say, but asking when the language changed and where that put the board in relation to possible liability should such occasion arise.

    Policy/Procedures/Autonomy

    The writer asked council member Stempniak why she had voted ‘no’ on resolution #9, the hiring of seasonal workers by the highway department, while at the same time she had voted ‘yes’ to the hiring of Parks & Recreation seasonal hires. “I have some personal issues with it,” replied Stempniak.

    Chowaniec: The reason I ask is to get clarification on hiring process and language use. Mr. Symer asked earlier on the use of the word ‘acknowledge’ for building permits. We also hear/read the words appoint and approve on resolutions and become confused as to their use.
    It is my understanding that according to municipal law an elected official has the sole authority to hire or fire workers and his determination is not based on town board approval.

    Supervisor Dino Fudoli: The highway department superintendent by state law has the right to hire someone as long as he or she is not adding a position, changing the salary structure and honors all labor agreements. He or she can fill (full time) vacancies on they’re own. Chowaniec: Why does he have to come before this board for seasonal appointment approval (resolution #9)? What’s different?

    Fudoli: Regarding resolution #9 and the hiring of seasonal employees, there are salary changes and therefore highway superintendent Amatura has to come to the board for recommended appointee approvals. I believe the wages increased by 25 cents an hour from last year. He is not filling vacancies per se as seasonal positions; are not considered full time union positions. As the position of Parks & Recreation is not an elected position, Mr. McCracken has to come before the board for appointment approvals.

    Chowaniec: Why then was there all this hullabaloo when the Town Clerk, an elected official, wanted to make those appointment changes last year and they came before the town board for resolution?

    Councilman John Abraham: I think it was past practice.

    Fudoli: I think it was a courtesy that was extended to this board. I guess there were some discrepancies.

    Chowaniec: So in the future we are not going to see the same past practice?

    Fudoli: I don’t know. I can’t speak for the other department heads or elected officials what they are going to do in the future, whether they will offer the board the same courtesies.

    Chowaniec; With the openness and transparency that is taking place, I think the questions asked tonight and the answers provided are important in that some of us that have been attending meetings for years were uncertain on the use and interchangeability of the resolution language used and the process of employee hiring. Some of this came about when the Town Attorney made a comment at a MRC meeting that ‘the town had been doing it wrong for years’ regarding SEQR approval.

    SEQR procedural change

    Before closing the meeting, Lancaster Town Attorney John Dudziak requested for and was granted permission to address the statement made by Chowaniec regarding the change in format on SEQR (environment review).

    Dudziak: I don’t remember those exact words ‘the town has been doing it wrong for years (he did) but if I did it’s a matter of semantics.

    Council member Stempniak interjected that seminar was held at the last planning board meeting. They were told they were doing things a little incorrectly. It was the responsibility of the town board to vote on the SEQR findings determined in joint Municipal Review Committee (MRC) session where SEQR is conducted between town and planning members (12). All 12 members have a say in the hearing and vote their recommendation of approval or denial to the town board based on their environmental review findings.

    Stempniak declared they were informed that the town board alone could hold SEQR. They could review the planning board findings, take into consider the planning board recommendation and make their own determination. Stempniak declared that the town would still like to have planning board participation because ‘they have a more intimate knowledge of the process.’

    Where in the past the MRC’s decision determined outcome, now the MRC made up of town and planning board members will meet to hold SEQR, vote to make a recommendation to the town board, the MRC findings would then be reviewed by the town board and the outcome would be the result of the town board’s findings and determination.

    The new age of openness and transparency in Lancaster; ask and ye shall receive.

  2. #2
    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Geez, I wonder what Stempniak had against the hiring of Justin Michel, Zacherie Geary and Steven Cook?


    Have a GREAT day,
    Georgia Schlager

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    I'm glad that an example was set at the Monday night Town Board meeting for many reasons. Mr. Symer was asked to "prove it" by Mrs. Stempniak and he did. I believe that the process/language/procedures/format of the Town Board, LIDA, Planning Board and ZBA meetings should be formally reviewed from time to time so that these questionable situations don't keep coming up. The language if not processed properly can cause problems down the road that could result in legal challenges that could put the town at risk because of laziness.

    There is a process that is required and I feel it is up to the Town Board members to study up and get it right the first time. I do feel that using that reference statement, "that is the way we have always done it" is laziness and narrow-mindedness.

  4. #4
    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Lee Chowaniec:Symer did research and addressed the town board Monday evening on the matter. He hand handouts distributed to the members of the town board that contained copies of past building permit resolutions that showed ‘approved’ was the language used in 1993 and two examples of 2001 resolutions sponsored by Stempniak that read ‘approved’.
    It's odd that the resolution language with "approved" in it was there in the March 5, 2001 minutes but changed to "resffirm" in the March 19,2001 minutes. What changed during that 2 week duration?


    Have a GREAT day,
    Georgia Schlager

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    Post #1 will have little relevance for the individuals that do not attend town board meetings. It was but a few years that getting information from the town through FOIA was a long and arduous process. Resolution language was written in legalese, words used interchangeably and confusion reigned.

    Today the i's are being dotted, the t's crossed, and no one told to sit down and shut up, that they didn't know what they were talking about.

  6. #6
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    It looks like Councilman Stempniak is trying to relieve herself of the earned label as one who - "approved more rezones, approved destruction of green space, approved destruction of rare bird habitat and approved more developers requests than any Council Member in recent history."

    As far as why she had a "Personal issue" with those seasonal appointments - rumor is the one guy is the son of a retired Lancaster Officer. The Officer didn't support the Dem Committee before he was "prompted" to retire.

    The Town Board Controllers actually tried to push false charges on this officer - past Chief Fowler had a bone for the Officer and tried to blame him for damage to a squad car while responding to a call. There was not one shred of factual proof the Officer did anything wrong or improper - he just wasn't one of them!

    Its appeared just prior to targeting the Officer - two reports were leaked about shady actions by the Chief and others - the Officer became Dem enemy number 1.

    Council-member Stempniak has proved again and again just how "Politically/Personaly Vindictive" she is.-
    #Dems play musical chairs + patronage and nepotism = entitlement !

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