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Letter to the Editor: Will There Be Change in Jefferson?

Written By Editor on 9/19/14 | 9/19/14

Dear Supervisor Sean Jordan,

When you were first elected, we anticipated the beginning of a new era. An era free of corruption, ineptitude and bias. We welcomed the new leadership and the opportunity to start a fresh, positive relationship with the town. We hoped to see a change in attitude, a fair approach, a new face.
Sadly, nine months later, we have yet to see any indication that there’s been any change in Jefferson. All we see is the perpetuation of old biases, the retaining of unqualified and incompetent contractors, the same old excuses, tired and worn pretexts.

As you well know, the governing body of the Town of Jefferson has been embroiled in an ugly dispute with Oorah for years. Repeatedly and through various means, the town has attempted to prevent our organization from fulfilling its mission. Documents have established that there has been a clear pattern of bias and abuse of power.

Oorah was forced to sue the town four times over the past four years. First because, under former Town Supervisor Daniel Singletary’s leadership, the town refused to issue building permits for properly designed camp structures. The town’s defense was unsuccessful and the permits were issued. Schoharie County Attorney Michael West, who represented the town in that case, later accepted an appointment as an administrative judge, proposing to decide a regulatory matter filed against Oorah by the County Department of Health.  This revealed Mr. West’s disregard for the rules of professional conduct by serving in positions that placed him in a direct conflict of interest. Every decent lawyer knows that you cannot serve as a judge over a party that the lawyer just had a case against. Later, Mr. West reluctantly recused himself when we pointed out the ethical problem, and the routine Department of Health matter was then easily resolved administratively.

Then the town, again under Mr. Singletary’s leadership, twice refused to grant Oorah its tax exemption, and again, lost the two suits filed against it. Town assessor Mark Los publicly stated, “It was worth the fight”. It is difficult to imagine that the town’s taxpayers would agree with this assessment.

In this ongoing fourth case, Oorah seeks certificates of occupancy for its completed camp buildings. The town refuses, baselessly, to issue them. Within the last week, the Supreme Court of New York has issued the third interim order requiring the township to allow Oorah to occupy and use its gymnasium, the primary building in question. Yet the Town of Jefferson continues to drag out the legal process, with no end in sight.

 From the start, we have done everything in our power to bring this case to a peaceful resolution, attempting at all times to comply with the town’s requests and demonstrating our good-faith efforts to move toward a mutually satisfactory conclusion. Our position has always been clear: we are here to make peace.

Every indication had been that you, too, were interested in a fair resolution of issues and putting aside ill will and uncalled-for antagonism. Yet we are sorry to say that those indications seem to have been unfounded.

We had hoped that we would finally be able to focus our time and resources on our vital mission without the distraction of baseless harassment by a town government motivated by bias. Those hopes have regrettably remained unrealized.
  
It’s not only we who deserve a clear answer. Your constituents, the good people of Jefferson, deserve to know as well: Why does its government  continue to waste taxpayer dollars on a lost case? Let the residents of Jefferson know why its political leadership stubbornly continues to fight an old battle which the courts have found to be without merit, carelessly spending tax money on exorbitant legal fees.

The facts of the case are clearly documented. We have been forced by the town’s desire to extend this battle to retain engineers and other experts who have certified that our buildings are safe, but you unreasonably refuse to accept these findings. The courts have ruled in our favor. Oorah, the residents of Jefferson, and the cause of justice are owed leadership that will step up to the plate to end this pointless war. Leadership that will control ethically compromised lawyers and bring the case to its end, as should have happened long ago.

We urge you to take the reins and change the way you will be perceived in this narrative. Will you go down in the annals of Schoharie history as the hero who finally brought an end to this dragged-out affair or as the weak leader who followed meekly in the footsteps of his belligerent and biased predecessor in wasting town funds to launch a losing and hopeless battle?

We would like to see this case settled and leave it behind us so that we can begin a new, improved relationship. But we’ve been mistreated for far too long already, and our responsibility to ourselves, to those we serve, and to those who support our work is to ensure that this illegal and unjust campaign is brought to an end. In addition to the actions already taken, keep in mind that there are other legal options open to us. Indeed, the documentary evidence seems to indicate that such measures will further vindicate Oorah, and expose the town, and possibly its officials, to extensive liability.

We offer peace.  Will you work with us to bring peace to the Valley or will you continue to allow your constituents to fund, and others to wage, this needless, lost war of retribution?

-- Camp Oorah
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