Testy exchanges about sexism and salary increases as board resumes business in Chester

Chester. Women at town meeting object to Supervisor Bob Valentine's use of "girls"when referring to town employees. Sue Bahren called Valentine, her one-time opponent for supervisor, "a jackass," and said giving 3 percent raises after exceeding the state tax cap was "unconscionable."

| 17 Jan 2020 | 05:05

As Bob Valentine, the town of Chester supervisor, greenlighted educational training for court clerks at the Jan. 8 town board meeting, he called the two clerks "the girls."

Councilwoman Cindy Smith looked at Valentine. "The court clerks," she said.

Sue Bahren, who narrowly lost her challenge to Valentine last election day, was in the audience.

"Really?" she said. "The girls? How about 'the court clerks?'"

Deborah Balfour Chishom had a look of astonishment on her face. She silently mouthed, "The girls? The girls?"

Valentine corrected himself. "The court clerks," he said.

Bahren called Valentine "a jackass."

At one point, Gail Popailo, wife of Walter Popailo, the town recreation director, made a comment. Bahren fired back.

Later in the meeting, Councilman Orlando Perez said name calling was not appropriate during meetings. Valentine went on to say how important it was for everyone to have choices during the last election. He said it was what democracy was all about. He thanked everyone for running and said he looks forward to an optimistic and positive future in Chester.

Bahren said the 3 percent salary increase for elected officials that the board approved that night was outrageous when the town had just exceeded the state's 2 percent tax cap in its budget for 2020. Only Valentine did not receive the increase. All other officials and employees in town got a raise.

"It's unconscionable," she said of the raises. "It's just unconscionable."

She said she'd heard that Jim Farr, the former building inspector, and Al Fusco each received $80,000 as town engineer. She wanted to know why the town had two engineers.

Valentine told The Chronicle after the meeting that it was "absolutely untrue" that Farr was being paid $80,000 annually, and that he had no idea where her information came from.