Weekly Feature



2018-06-07 / Front Page

Questioning of village hiring process leads to heated exchange

by CHRIS GRAHAM
Editor

Frustration filled Village Hall Monday night when a resident called out the board’s recent appointment of a new associate village justice, causing both the mayor and village attorney to adamantly defend the move.

Steve Nugent, a resident of Harvard Place, asked during the Village Board meeting what the vetting process was to appoint Sean O’Brien to the post.

“It depends on the person or the position I’m replacing,” said Mayor Jo Ann Litwin Clinton. “If they have a direct person that they’re working with or someone else in the village, I go to that person sometimes to request information on what the duties would be, as well as the qualifications. Then they’re reviewed and the candidate is selected.”

O’Brien was appointed Monday because Village Attorney Philip Marshall is leaving the position of associate justice for personal reasons. Litwin Clinton said Marshall told her about his decision at the end of May.

Responding to Litwin Clinton’s explanation of the vetting process, Nugent questioned the mayor on which other candidates were considered for the position.

Before Litwin Clinton had a chance to respond, Marshall stepped in to say it was a personnel decision and said if Nugent looked at the qualifications of the person, there would be nothing to question.

“Do you have Google? Do you know how to use a computer? He’s got a terrific resume,” Marshall said.

Adding that he was not challenging O’Brien’s qualifications, Nugent again said he was trying to better understand the board’s vetting process.

Marshall said Nugent can’t expect a public official to detail a vetting process when it changes from appointment to appointment.

Nugent continued to ask if other people were considered for the position, feeling he had still not received an adequate answer.

“The answer is it’s a personnel decision, and she’s answered the question, so move on,” Marshall said.

Nugent continued to go back and forth with the mayor and attorney, leading Marshall to say, “This is comment time, not question time.”

The business from the floor section of the meeting has in the past included members of the public bringing up issues in the village, and, at times, asking questions of the board and receiving answers.

“Is there a venue or an opportunity for people to ask questions? I don’t think it’s legitimate that you’re trying to shut me down, I’m asking you a very legitimate question,” Nugent said.

In an interview after the meeting, Litwin Clinton contended she answered Nugent’s question, adding that the query went into a personnel decision. Due to privacy issues, she was not going to further expound on who was interviewed for the post.

“He was asking for things I could not provide him and he was not accepting the answer,” said Litwin Clinton, adding that the board always attempts to answer residents questions to the best of their abilities, but if they involve personnel or privacy issues there’s a limit to what can be divulged.

The mayor said she came to the decision after speaking with Village Justice Daniel Kane and asking him to provide some eligible candidates, ultimately selecting O’Brien.

“I used our village justice, who’s elected and has to work with this person, to help me canvas that search,” she said.

The next meeting of the Village Board will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, June 11, in Village Hall, 4295 S. Buffalo St., Orchard Park.

email: cgraham@beenews.com

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