Under cover of a dark, cold and rainy Monday night between Christmas and New Year, Town of Vestal “leadership” picked the pockets of Vestal taxpayers to the tune of over a quarter of a million dollars.
Village officials denied citizen’s entry to the special meeting, made them wait outside in the freezing rain, and then arbitrarily declared that only four people could attend. So much for open and honest governance.
This special meeting had one agenda item; authorizing Town of Vestal Supervisor John Schaffer to sign an Employment Separation Agreement with Vestal police Chief John Butler that includes a payout of well over a quarter of a million dollars when factoring in cash and future insurance payments.
Before the meeting started, those taxpayers in attendance were making it clear that they wanted answers about this unprecedented payment while Schaffer nervously checked and rechecked his watch, oblivious to questions, insisting that the meeting had to start before he or any elected official would make any utterance. When asked why the meeting was not at least available on Zoom, Schaffer’s incredible response was that…” the Zoom lady wasn’t available.” So much for Open Meeting Law.
So even though the meeting was open to the public, and the public had many questions, Schaffer refused to entertain any input prior to proceeding to make a motion that he be authorized to sign this agreement. The four council-persons in unison muttered their Pavlovian-like approval and with that the meeting was over, the deal was done, zero public input.
Only after the authorization had been made was the public even able to speak. During that brief and rigidly policed exchange, Schaffer stated that the financial payouts were simply monies owed Butler for sick leave, accrued vacation, etc. If that is true, why not simply pay those amounts to Butler, why the need for a special agreement that included a non-disclosure clause?
Bulter retired from the Binghamton police department years ago and collects a NYS pension of more than $43,000.00. His Binghamton benefits include medical insurance coverage so why has Vestal agreed to pay his and his wife’s medical insurance premiums for life? How much additionally was Butler’s payout beyond what was contractually required? What was the extra payout for? If Butler is due most of this money from contractual obligations, why is the payout spread over two years? We’ll never know because the agreement includes a non-disclosure agreement making the deal totally unaccountable.
This kind of secretive, inside dealing, keeping the public in the dark, special-meeting culture is exactly the kind of governance Citizens for a Better Broome cautions taxpayers about. When only a handful of people show up for a meeting that allows a quarter of a million dollars to float out the window, perhaps Thomas Jefferson was right when he said, “the government you elect is the government you deserve.”
Chairman Schaffer and the council-persons that authorized this outrageous payday for Butler ought to be ashamed, but their consciences are likely are shielded by non-disclosure agreements.