Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley.
The continuing feud between the Elizabethtown town supervisor and a now former councilman may have reached its boiling point.
In a pair of letters to the editor to the Valley News and other media outlets, Kenneth Fenimore announced that he was resigning from his post on the Elizabethtown council because he felt the board was not being run properly.
Fenimore also claimed Supervisor Margaret Bartley was making back-door deals without consulting with the board, including re-assessing the town sewer project and hiring a new firm to install water meters in the town.
“Not all actions on very important issues have been able to be resolved in a true board fashion,” Fenimore said. “Issues have been discussed outside of the town office instead of in true town board form and fashion.”
Bartley answered back, saying that she felt the town and board were running properly.
“This is an ongoing issue — an ongoing difference of opinion,” Bartley said. “I don’t think that this is just about water meters or a sewer system.”
AES v. Dodson
In his second letter, Fenimore stated that he felt Bartley had done a backroom deal with AES services and contracted with them for water meter installation services. He claimed that the project should have been awarded to Jack Dodson, who had already been working on the water project.
“He had been working on this through the summer and without any board discussion, a bid from a different group was sought and then accepted,” he said. “There was never any discussion to do this, to go out for bids. The board needs to debate these things before they happen. There needs to be a resolution and as second followed by a vote to go out for bid.”
Bartley said that while the meters were part of the overall water project, it was a different phase.
“This was the fourth phase of the water project,” Bartley said. “When I took office, I got a letter from EFC asking if we had finished the project up. I found out that we had $521,000 in grant money remaining for the meters and we were about to lose it. The metering part of this had never been contracted and it was a separate issue, so I felt that we should look at some other contractors.”
Neither Bartley nor Fenimore were at the August meeting when the board approved the AES bid, as Bartley was recovering from surgery and Fenimore had handed in his resignation earlier that day.
Both referred to a meeting that happened in April with Michael Mascarenas at the county and Dodson but took away differing conclusions.
“During the meeting, Michael asked Dodson if he had a contract for this work, and he said no,” Bartley said. “After that, I talked with several supervisors and Michael again to get an idea where we should go.”
“The conclusion from that meeting was that this was a continuation of the water project and Jack Dodson had been the contractor for that project,” Fenimore said. “I think that the town has hurt a key relationship over this.”
Bartley also questioned the intentions of Fenimore using an email between he and Dodson which had been sent shortly after the decision had been made.
“Ken was having conversations with Dodson after the vote had happened,” she said. “If you are representing the town on one hand and then acting as an agent on the other, I would think that you should recuse yourself from the matter. I also hear that there have been some who are using their connection to try and change the vote, but it has already happened.”
‘War of words’
Bartley said that she felt that she needed to say something after Fenimore’s letters were printed but did not want to get into what she felt was a “war of words.” She added that she felt it was unfortunate that Fenimore decided to resign.
“Ken has a lot of knowledge and skills that he could use to help the town,” Bartley said. “I am sorry that he feels that he cannot do that.”
Fenimore felt that his resignation was the best chance that he had to effect change.
“I have been trying in recent months to get the issues that I feel need to be addressed before the town board, and I have failed in that,” Fenimore said. “My feeling was that the way things are going now was going to continue, and the only way I was going to be able to make the public aware was to make some noise. The most effective way I could think of was to resign and make noise in that way.”
Fenimore said that he had no interest in eventually challenging Bartley for the position of supervisor but would not rule out a return to politics.
“I have no interest in supervisor, and I think my wife would not be happy with that, either,” Fenimore joked. “I would consider running for town council again at some future point depending on the nature of the board. I have had 35 years of service to the community, but this kind of stuff wears on you.”
Bartley said that town officials had not decided what to do with the vacant town board seat and were looking at alternatives.
“We have been talking to the Board of Elections about it,” Bartley said. “I would think that we would want to look at the people who ran in the last election to see if they still had an interest. We will start with them and then go from there.”
Evelyn Hatch, who currently serves on the town planning board and wrote a letter to the editor disputing some of Fenimore’s claims, along with Ben Morris, were candidates for town board last November that were not elected to the two then-vacant positions.