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Thursday, February 5, 2009

You've Got Mail

E-mails from local community activists and citizens critical of the workings of city government are a common thing to appear in the inboxes of newsroom staffers at The Record.

However, a recent group of e-mails particularly peeked our interest because a city official and city councilmen chose to respond and forward those responses to members of the council, the mayor's office, a neighborhood group, and a Record reporter.

Today's conversation, which we believe started over concern that the City Council has not been videotaping their regular monthly meetings due to a broken camera, is posted below:

Richard Herrick, a local community activist:

"this issue should not be about a lock or the City Clerk or the Council --lets stay focused and brainstorm ways to get the meetings broadcast as a public service. [By the way I saw nothing in the charter assigning the videotaping to either the City Clerk or the Council.]
point: I think the responsibility to resolve this problem truly lies with our Chief Executive and not with the Council or the Clerk. Mayor Tutunjian's Office can take the bull by the horns, buy a camera and arrange for the taping and broadcast.
I know that the City has a $50,000 a year Deputy Public Information Officer who is at every Council meeting and would like to suggest that the taping and broadcasting the meetings truly falls to him as our Public Information Officer.
Case closed, I hope."

Jeff Buell, Troy city spokesman:
"Richard,

The City Council has always taped these meetings, regardless if it was a Republican majority or a Democrat majority. Your Fatal Attraction obsession with the Mayor is starting to scare me. Could you explain to me why it would be the Executive Branch’s responsibility to tape the actions of the Legislative Branch? And while you are quoting the charter, there is nothing in the charter that dictates my attendance at these meetings.

And oh by the way, the Legislative Branch, at last count, has SIX employees- Six Richard! Not one or two, or even three or four, or five, but SIX, one of which makes more than the Deputy Director of Public Information (that’s me). I supply you with this information to let you know that the Mayor has a staff of two people. Not six or five, or four, or three. But two! Myself and his secretary, Prudence. This is where I say that I know that I am remarkably overpaid, and happen to be one of those bad, bad people that took a 3.5 percent raise that was offset by givebacks I also took in health care (this will save the time of some of my bigger fans from e-mailing me and calling me pathetic, which usually happens when I respond to something- let’s keep it classy!).

If you need further information, please note that the Mayor’s Office sent a member of the Bureau of Information Services to the City Council Office several weeks ago to look at the video camera and see if we could fix it for them, so that they could resume the taping of their meetings. The employee was told that he could not have the camera, even look at it, as it was not the property of the administration. Your tax dollars hard at work Rich!

In closing, with all the above said, I would love the opportunity to film the City Council meetings. I took several film classes in college, and would make certain to add a little artistic flare to the process. If the Council replaces the camera, which amazingly worked for how many years before they took office, we can start back up again.

Thanks, I’ve wasted 11 minutes of tax payer dollars writing this e-mail. I think it will be okay though, as I’ll likely be here until 9 p.m. tonight, and I’ll cut my lunch a little short.

Have a great day,

Jeff"

Councilman John Brown, D-At Large:
"Jeff,

I noticed that our Finance Committee meeting on January 22nd was filmed by a city employee. Would it be possible for that camera to be made available to one of the Legislative Branch's many employees until this equipment issue is resolved? Unless of course you are sincere in your desire to do the filming yourself, in which case please try to get my goodside.
Thanks,
John"

Buell:
"Councilman,

The camera in question is privately owned, and while the person filming may have been a City employee, he was filming on his own time, not the City’s. I’m hoping that you were made aware of this, as he was extensively questioned about his attendance at this meeting by one of your many employees. I will track him down and see if he has any interest in allowing the City to borrow his camera.

In the meantime, as long as we are advancing the use of citizen-owned cameras, perhaps we could invite Mr. Herrick down to film the meeting. I know the Record is planning on having its camera there tonight for the State of the City Address. We could capture this thing from three different angles and piece it together documentary style. Hey, at the end we could even offer some commentary. It could add some levity to a forum sorely in need of a laugh.

Thanks,

Jeff

P.S. Another six minutes I will charge to my lunch."

Councilman Mark Wojick, R-District 1
"To all,

I usually don’t respond to all these back-and-forth emails, but I think it is in bad taste and serves no meaningful purpose for neighborhood groups to be copied on all this mundane communications between various members of the Troy city government.

mw"

Herrick:
"An e-mail tread was started to discuss the issue of the videotaping and broadcasting of City Council meetings and brainstorm ideas as to how to get it done.
I offered an opinion that the responsibility to resolve this problem truly lies with our Mayor and not with the Council or the Clerk. I thought that since the Council meetings involve both the Executive and Legislative branches of government interacting in public that the Mayor as a service to the public take on the responsibility. It was a way to resolve a very minor issue.
I received what I feel to be a troubling and totally inappropriate response from the Mayor's Office that I think its important to share."

Councilman Bill Dunne, D-District 4:
"Jeff,

Yes, blame the council majority. Seems to be the administration's answer to everything. The camera was old and it stopped working, period. Regrettably, the council's budget does not have a line to repair/replace equipment. Perhaps, had administration appointees not taken raisesd like the council's employees, we'd have sufficient funds to buy a new camera.

Bill"

Buell:
"Councilman,

Thankfully, now I’m on my lunch.

Did a member of BIS go to the Council’s office and ask to see the camera, in hopes of repairing it. Yes.

Was that person told, by one of your employees, that it was not our camera? Yes, he was, and in a not so pleasant manner.

Our answer in this current situation was not to blame the Council majority, but to offer the Council help fixing the camera that just stopped working. That’s pretty clear.

The Council budget does not have the money to purchase a camera, but it has money to “fix” a lock that is working perfectly fine? Remarkably, that lock that was working, is now “fixed” for the price of two cameras. No blame, just the truth.

And I like the dig about the raises, so I grabbed a copy my trusty budget. First I must apology to Richard in my e-mail earlier, the City Council does not have six employees, it actually has seven. And of those seven, the three highest paid- the Deputy City Clerk, the City Clerk, and the City Auditor- all received the same 3.5 percent raise that I did last year. Also, when they began in 2008, each of them began at the level of the previous employee. I’m sure that was just an honest mistake on your part. So is that why you do not have sufficient funds to buy the camera?

Jeff"

Dunne:
"By the way, I'm still waiting for the copies of the annual disclosure forms, for which I've asked a dozen times. I guess Dave Mitchell stilI doesn't want anyone to know where he really lives. Has he paid his taxes on 20 Fourth Street yet? Last I knew it exceeded $10,000. Personally, I have no knowledge of anyone asking to fix the camera. And the lock was replaced to keep folks out of the clerks office when the staff is not on duty. Sad that such a step was required, because not everyone shares the same sense of right and wrong and of what's there's and what isn't. Furthermore, the fact that the old combination was the worst kept secret in Troy posed a life safety issue for city employees in that office. I hope you share my concern regarding the safety of employees in the work place.

As to the raises, correct. The mayor's veto did put them back, but we did in fact eliminate a job saving $10,000. "

Buell:
"Councilman,

You do know I enjoy a good discussion.

In regards to Dave Mitchell, I do not know the answers to these questions, but you are a City Councilman, and entitled to information, so I will forward it on.

As for the life safety issues, I can say that I do not hold the same concerns for employees in the workplace, please let me explain why. Part of it stems from my overwhelming belief that people are good, but the remainder is because of the following:

1) The worst kept secret in the City of Troy is that the chocolate milk at Famous Lunch is the best in the world, and that is the one up it has on Gus’s in Watervliet.

2) I say this because I have worked here since January 1, 2004, and I pledge to you that I had no idea what that code was. Never bothered to learn it I guess. Each time I needed to talk with an employee in there I knocked.

3) The only people that would know that code are former Clerk’s office employees, and some City Council members. Having known most of them, on both sides of the aisle, I just don’t see any of them causing harm to any of the current employees. But, better safe than sorry I guess. I just wanted to point out that you do indeed have a budget for “repairs.”

That’s all I have for now, I have to get back to work, lunch is over.

Jeff"

Dunne:
"Not sure why you need to forward a request on. You are the Public Information guy, right? So quite simply...DO YOUR JOB."

Buell:

Councilman,

If I do not know the answers to the questions you are asking, I must forward the request on, as I do not know. In effect, by forwarding your request, I am doing my job as you suggested.

Have a great day,

Jeff"


That's all for now folks. Tonight will be a busy night at City Hall with the State of the City at 7 p.m., followed by the council's regular meeting.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to see Bill Dunne still has not learned any lessons with his e-mails. The good news is some time in the near future his agreement with the dorm authority will allow the release of the e-mails he sent to the female worker that caused his termination with the state. Rumor has it they have already been foiled and will become public shortly. Then we can all have a glimpse of what Mr Dunne is truly like.

Richard herrick has never had any understanding of government even with something as simple as the seperation of executive branch/legislative branch. But he is entertaining with his bizarre views.

February 7, 2009 at 11:44 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the lock was BROKE. Now Done states it was to keep people out. What is the truth?? Another lie by the Dems. Please investigate this.

February 9, 2009 at 6:48 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys have been promising those e-mails forever. Where are they? Come on, come up with something new.

February 9, 2009 at 8:34 AM 

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