Town Clerk Nanci Russell read a statement to the Town of Webb Board on Tuesday, October 14, at the Board’s monthly meeting, alerting them to what she characterized as a diminished working dynamic between her office and that of the Town Supervisor.
She said Supervisor Ted Riehle has altered the manner in which he utilizes the Town Clerk’s office, to the point that efficiency and professionalism are being compromised.
An example she gave involved a recent posting of a town employment notice. Such notices traditionally go through the Town Clerk’s office, according to Russell. This notice, however, was posted without her office’s involvement. As such, it was posted improperly according to state law.
Even worse, Russell said, was that her office was never notified of the posting. This caused Russell to receive caller inquiries, of which she was ignorant. “The impression they got was that I was clueless and inept,” Russell said.
One inquiring party ended up explaining to Russell where she could go online to find information about the Town of Webb’s job offering.
“I had to Google-search it,” Russell said. “I printed the Google information, so I could post it to the Legal Notices board at our town office.”
That’s not proper produce, according to Russell. She said it’s her belief that Supervisor Riehle needs to reacquaint himself with the function of her office, and the role it serves on behalf of the public and the taxpayers.
Following is the complete text of Russell’s statement to the Town Board:
“The office of Town Clerk is long established in New York State, with its functions and duties clearly defined in the state’s General Municipal Law.
“Among other duties, Town Clerks serve as Clerks of the Town Board, a duty I am performing tonight and have been performing faithfully since I started in this office fourteen-and-a-half years ago.
“The Town Clerk does not work for the Town Board or the Town Supervisor. We are independently elected officials who are accountable to the public which elects us and funds our offices with their tax dollars.
“As such, I serve on behalf of the citizens of the Town of Webb, who have graciously reelected me to this office seven times. It is an honor and privilege, and I take my work seriously.
“Other duties of the Town Clerk are described in “Information for Town Officials,” a publication issued by Thomas DiNapoli, our New York State Comptroller.
“According to the Comptroller:
• The Clerk is in charge of most town records.
• The Clerk issues certain licenses and permits.
• The Clerk files reports with the County and State agencies.
• The Clerk posts legal notices, among other things.
“In many ways, according to the Comptroller, the Town Clerk ‘is a pivot around which the town operates.’
“None of this is new to me or the taxpayers I serve. I have managed this office a long time and have done my best to be competent and professional. And I am thankful to the taxpayers for honoring me with the privilege.
“In recent months, however, it seems the traditional role of THIS Town Clerk has been repeatedly disregarded. Supervisor Riehle has continually taken it upon himself to redefine my role, as he picks and chooses Town Clerk duties as he sees fit.
“Among other slights, he has circumvented my office in advertising Town employment opportunities, causing them to be improperly posted according to this office’s proper procedure.
“He has redirected traditional Town Clerk duties to outside consultants, who are unelected, unnamed, and unaccountable to the taxpayers.
“He has channeled traditional Town Clerk duties to the Town Attorney and himself as Supervisor and/or Police Commissioner, whichever suits his purpose.
“This disregard of me in my professional capacity has resulted in confusion in my office and among the public. I have repeatedly appeared clueless and inept to members of the public, having been kept from the loop with regard to customary Town Clerk business. This does not reflect well on me or the town.
“As stated, I have performed in this office for many years and am familiar with its proper functioning. I have served multiple Supervisors and can say that these recent occurrences are not only unprecedented, but damaging to the image and reputation of this office and by extension, the Town of Webb itself.
“Despite recent awkwardness, this is still the Town Clerk’s Office, and it still must function in a proper manner. And the occupant of this office is still entitled to a measure of professional respect.
“Tonight, I am asking the Town Board, particularly the Town Supervisor, to reconsider the office of the Town Clerk.
“I am asking you to take the time to reacquaint yourself, Supervisor Riehle, with my duties, my responsibilities to our taxpayers, and my function in helping to ensure a sound local government.
“I am asking you to reflect upon my recording function which, among other things, is the foundation of local checks and balances.
“I am asking you to consider the words of our State Comptroller when he says, ‘The Town Clerk is a pivot around which the town operates.’
“Nanci T. Russell, Town of Webb Town Clerk.”
Neither Supervisor Riehle or the board offered comment at the meeting.