Supervisor bullies volunteers to hire his unqualified friend

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Dear Chester Residents:

My name is Tina Pelaez and I would just like to inform the residents in the town of Chester of some of the things that are happening. I have been a member of the Chester Park and Recreation Commission for 10-12 years. I have seen park and recreation directors come and go over that period of time. Our last director has recently resigned and the park commission had volunteered endless hours making sure all programs continued and all park property has been maintained.

We have also spent endless hours interviewing candidates for the director’s job. The park commission, which consists of five members, chose two candidates that were very qualified for this job, who had the experience necessary to push this town in the right direction. We presented our candidates to our town board liaison and our town supervisor, but our town supervisor already had his mind made up before interviews even started on who he wanted for the job. The problem is he has a personal agenda. I was told he was determined to hire a friend. As a person, and maybe as a park director, he would do a good job, but he was not the most qualified. The park commission wanted a candidate with supervisory experience, budgetary experience, field experience, and a flexible schedule to meet the 20-hours-a-week requirement. Our candidate met all the criteria and on top of that had a proven record of being a successful recreation director in two other communities. The person our town supervisor wants to hire has only one of these characteristics, which is a flexible schedule. By law the park commission has the power to hire the park director not the town board. How does the town board solve the problem? They abolish the park commission.

We as a park commission disagree on things a lot, but that’s because we have our own minds and don’t always “yes” each other. When our recent director resigned, and it required us to do the work ourselves these past couple of months, we got it done without complaining, without arguing, without a thank you. Personnel issues have challenged us, the park commission, over the years, and when we tried to rectify it we were abolished. The supervisor of the town basically tried to “bully” us into making a decision to hire his friend, and we as a commission would not succumb to his nastiness and his dictator attitude, so he turned on us and convinced the rest of the board to get rid of us without them knowing all the facts. How many of the board members actually read park minutes to know what is going on or talked with the commissioners one-on-one for more than 15 minutes about our goals, community needs and challenges budgetary or otherwise needing town board support? They don’t even know all the names of the members of the commission appointed.

I have been on the Park and Recreation Commission under the leadership of Bill Tully and Steve Neuhaus and I have never felt lack of support, unappreciated for all the ungrateful long hours that this commission volunteers. Our supervisor never so much as said thank you, never so much as said this program went well today, good job. You ask what programs? I’ll tell you: Bus trip to the flower show in Philly, we took in the Quilters when they got removed from the Library, Senior Movie Night, Movies in the Park, Kite Festival, sleigh riding at Knapps View, hikes, Storybook Dance for Toddlers at the Library, Summer Camp, Holiday Party, and most recently Men’s Basketball. All of those are programs, we as a park commission worked with the staff to improve over the years and we had so many more ideas in the works to support. The only program that I could recall didn’t go smoothly was the basketball program, and the director we wanted to hire had experience in that area and promised that problem would be rectified.

Here’s the problem. When you have power and start using that power for your own personal agenda you are doing a disservice to the public or the community and that is what I am seeing from the town supervisor.

I have lived in this town for 42 years. I’ve been an athlete in this town, I have been a coach in this town, I am a taxpayer in this town, I have volunteered my time in this town, I am a teacher who has an extensive education, who preaches respect and honesty in my classroom. The one thing I am not is a person who will be bullied or pushed around. Five of us unanimously voted on a new park director to hire. But instead of moving forward and approving the park commission’s choice to hire and let us do our job, the town board didn’t like the idea that we had so much authority and our choice was not the friend of the town supervisor, so coincidentally they abolished the park commission. That’s disgusting. The board, Jerry Murray, Linda Ranni, Cindy Smith, Bob Valentine, and Alex Jamieson, did this with not even the common courtesy to tell us this behind closed doors, so we could inform our other commission members before they heard it from someone else. There has been plenty of time for him to e-mail us or call us, and we are all still waiting for that call. Real professional.

I suspect they will come up with a bunch of excuses on why they fired volunteers in their community (again) but we will know the true story and can hold our heads up high. Let’s see if the board goes ahead and hires the supervisor's friend with no experience as a park director, or will the other board members thoroughly review all the candidates, check their resumes carefully, call references, as we the park commission did, and make their decisions with the facts that they gathered personally? Or will they rush into another drastic and hasty decision lead by the supervisor and sit on the board as his “yes” men/women. Time will tell.

I am convinced of the incompetence of the people running our town. Once you start considering hiring people who are your friends and not the most qualified the power gets to your head. I don’t want this town to turn into Monticello, where personal agendas and not what’s in the best interest of the people becomes the motivations for decisions. If a person runs for supervisor against our current supervisor, they just got my vote. Some people will just say, “It’s just small town politics.” The fact of the matter is it doesn’t have to be.

In closing, I would like to thank all park commission members, including those who just got abolished, as well as those from the past who have volunteered their personal time for the better of the community.

Tina Pelaez


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