Correction on Wednesday, Mar.7: John Olenik is not a board member as originally published below and is a resident of Milton. Jim Staulters, also a resident, was not ousted from the Planning Board–his term limit expired and he was not re-appointed. We regret the errors.
MILTON – Two members of Milton, New York’s ethics board resigned from their positions on Wednesday, Feb. 28 over a conflict with the Milton Town Board according to the Times Union (TU).The story states Chair Rob Keihm and John Bory resigned from Milton’s ethics committee after they duo “lost faith” in the Town Board. The apparent disagreement, according to the TU, stemmed from the Town Board forcing a third vote in order to allow Brenda Baird to join the ethics board.
“The ethics board especially, should be independent and free from the appearance of bias, political motivation and influence,” the TU reports on the contents of Keihm’s letter as he read aloud. “However, the town supervisor and the majority of this town board has seen fit to ignore these issues and I ask for what reason? What ulterior motives exist that the town board is adamant in appointing an individual who has obvious conflicts of interest with at least four employees/officials.”
Further reported by Saratoga Today (ST), Keihm and Bory took issue with Baird’s active political connections, such as Councilman John Frolish. Baird served on the campaign for Frolish and as an election commissioner for him at various polling stations, adds the TU. Further, Baird was personally asked by Supervisor Scott Ostrander to join the ethics board, a fact multiple committee members claim she explicitly mentioned during her interview. According to the TU, members of the ethics board thought these connections would present a conflict interest and rejected her.
Town employee and previous candidate for different Town leadership positions, Meg Stevens, objected to Baird because she served on Frolish’s campaign. A detail Supervisor Scott Ostrander said applied to her as well in previous elections.
Stevens said in an online public forum, “the difference is that I’m not applying for the Ethics Board.”
“She has a clear and present significant conflicts,” Keihm told the TU.
The TU reports that Bory, resigning along with Keihm, called Baird an “unremarkable candidate”. Moreover, the ethics board actually rejected Baird’s candidacy twice and both times a different member was chosen only to be invalidated by the Town Board.
Frolish, says the TU, did not recuse himself from the vote, however. Instead, he voted in favor of Baird’s candidacy. Without the vote from Frolish, noted Keihm to the TU, the Town Board would have once again been unable to force Baird on to the committee.
John Olenik, a board member, told Ostrander, “This is not leadership, this is arrogance.”
According to ST, the board investigates ethics complaints in Milton and makes recommendations to the Town Board, provided the Board has the ability to act on the matter. A sentiment echoed by Supervisor Ostrander who provided a copy of the code that states the Board can accept or reject the recommendations of the current board members.
The TU adds that while the ethics board believes their rules prohibit someone who has worked on a campaign from joining them, the Town Board says otherwise.
Recently ousted from the planning board and long time adversary of town leadership, Jim Staulters, has helped to organize an open forum at 7 p.m. Monday, March 5, at the Geyser Road Fire Department, 520 Geyser Road, Milton for “residents who want a stronger voice in the town’s political decision(s).”
Supervisor Ostrander says he has called Olenik and others personally and invited them in for personal meetings to discuss issues. As if this report, it is unknown if his invites have been accepted.