Sunday, February 20, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm, Stuyvesant Town Hall, planning board, public comments

I run a small business, Glencadia Dog Camp. In August 2010, the town of Stuyvesant began a campaign to shut the business down and destroy the livelihoods of my family and my employee one or, sometimes, employees, two. After the shocking and unconstitutional revocation of my permit without a hearing or any due process, I have been fighting back against the town of Stuyvesant, clearly a town in which corrupt practices flourish in government. This anti-corruption blog and all the issues discuss, all the malfeasance reported, all of that came out of the revocation of the permit to operate my business in 2010.

I will be before Judge Bruno on March 2, 7 pm to answer a criminal citation, possibly leading to a jury trial at some later date with penalties up to 15 days in jail, and on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm at the Stuyvesant Town Hall for a planning board public hearing which may help determine whether the business I built with considerable investment of time and money can be shut down by town officials with no just cause. With all these hearings, I will be asking folks to come out and support me a few times over the next few months and I would like to take a moment to tell you why you should. Right now, I hope to get people to come to the planning board in March.

Here are the reasons:

One: the charges are false and trivial but the stakes are high. If the town is allowed to shut my business down, my family will be rendered poor and all my investments will go down the drain. Hopefully, a few of you will be moved simply on that basis. Am I innocent? Yesyes. Have we as a family suffered? Yes. Is there any public interest in this protracted battle over nothing? No.

Two: the charges were leveled in order to silence and intimidate me and stop me from exercising my constitutional rights. One charge after the next, one proceeding after the next. I have zoning, planning and criminal proceedings all going forward at the same time, on various trivial and demonstratively false charges. On the other hand, I have lead the charge for a referendum on the million dollar town garage, investigated the boat club assessment and building permit problems, pointed out a 10,000 hole in the budget, and called for a hearing to determine whether the supervisor Valerie Bertram should be the chair of the Ethics Board of Columbia County. Could my political and anti-corruption activity possibly be the reason that impossible and false charges have been leveled at me? Why else would I have three sets of hearings going forward on various false charges? I have been mugged and I'm fighting back. Is there any other way to understand all of this stuff going on up here in Stuyevesant? Is the town out of line? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,

Three: the town of Stuyvesant is corrupt and the Columbia County Board of Supervisors doesn't seem to care. With Valerie Bertram as chair of the Ethics Board and no hearing on the matter, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors is sending a clear signal: they care more about each other and their private interests than in protecting the public, stopping government corruption and graft and growing the economy. No one is watching the store, folks. It's open season on your tax money. Look for yourself at this and this.

If the people, the voters, don't take a stand against corruption, government waste and corruption will continue to sap the economic vitality out of the county.

Corruption and waste can end if we take a stand. In my small way, I have and I was punished for it. In Egypt, Tunisia, Libya the threat of death did not stop the people from standing up to corruption and we should be able to get in our cars and drive to 5 Sunset Drive in Stuyvesant NY 12173 on March 28 to take a stand in favor of economic development and against government corruption. Children, don't get weary.

Open, accountable government and a good climate for investment and economic growth are the same thing in principle and in my case specifically. Like jobs? Come on over to the hearing. Hate corruption? Join me on March 28.

A year ago, I never thought I would have to fight for my constitutional rights. Now I know better. Think you will never have a problem? That's what I thought; you never know. Don't sleep on your rights. Join me and take a stand for the constitution and our economic future right here in Columbia County.

Thank you. Oh and here's another reason to show up: PLEASE! Pretty please! Thanks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

the truth

I was planning a sound test tomorrow to prove that the charge against me is not worth many thousands of dollars and years of litigation. I invited all the members of the planning, zoning and town boards so that we could systematically establish that the charge that Glencadia Dog Camp is ever or has ever been loud is not only theoretically false but in fact demonstratively false. If a physics paper and testimony of 31 eye-witnesses (so far) is insufficient, let's add a measurement experiment to the pile of evidence.

The purpose of the sound test was to follow up on my open house, when I invited the entire town to visit my facility, with a test specifically for those who might need to decide on the truth or falsehood of this dog barking charge. No one seemed to want to come, so I did the sound test this morning and won't ask folks to come back and pitch in tomorrow. But I can repeat this test anytime with any witnesses who might like to contact me.

Untitled from glencadia on Vimeo.

By way of reference, here is the neighborhood:

Untitled from glencadia on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Serious about Ethics?

The State of New York Temporary State Commission on Local Government Ethics Final Report (January 1993, Henry J. Miller, chair) notes (page 7) that “Ethics laws must reflect local government’s dependence upon volunteers” and that “Ethics laws for municipal officials must be enforced locally.”

I am the volunteer the Commission had in mind. As intended, I took my complaint to the local government, then to the county government.

When you see what happened to me do you want to volunteer? I would hope, perversely,  you would see what happened to me, get mad and say, “Yes, I do.” The more people do FOIL and volunteer to look into their local governments, the harder it will be for them to hammer us all back down.

So join me. Volunteer. Get hammered.

My necessarily superficial investigation of town finances and practices found serious problems: solicitation of inappropriate payment, movement of funds from the town bank account to contractor pockets without paperwork, invoice fraud, assessment manipulation allowing privileged property owner to avoid paying taxes, filing false statements and frequent pre-dawn observation of a residence.

I went to the supervisor. I wrote for four month then met in person. She assured me no one did anything wrong. She also told me she hadn't read my complaint. Four days later I was hit with a criminal citation based on a false, indeed impossible charge. The maximum penalty: 15 days in jail based on a previously unknown law.

Thanks for volunteering! Let me know if you see any other suspicious behavior!

So I went to the county, both with a private meeting with the Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors. Then I sent a letter to all the supervisors. The Chairman claims he has no authority. No one has so far has read and then stepped up to allow for a hearing as to whether the supervisor of my town, Valerie Bertram, should retain he chair of the Ethics Board.

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors is reluctant to exercise supervision over their membership or consider any action that might stem the tide of corruption in Columbia County. The county has an Ethics Policy on the website and has established an Ethics Board but that policy and that board may be disingenuous.

Is the county government right to simply wash their hands of the matter and leave a supervisor who clearly punished me for bring ethics charges to her attention as the chair of the Ethics Board?

Columbia County: is Stuyvesant the exception or the rule? Is Valerie Bertram representative or an outlier in terms of ethics?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Remove Chair of Columbia County Ethics Board: call for a hearing

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Official Correspondence: An open letter to the Columbia County Board of Supervisors

I am writing to call for a hearing to determine if Stuyvesant Supervisor Valerie Bertram should be removed from her position as chair of the Columbia County Ethics Board. I presented her with credible evidence of wrongdoing by people under her and the town as a body, with her knowledge and approval, retaliated against me. I will argue that leaving Ms. Bertram in her current position is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house.

County Chairman Brown heard my allegations and wrote to Ms. Bertram, link below. In his letter, Mr. Brown noted the suggestion that Ms. Bertram be asked to voluntarily resign from the Ethics Board as an alternative to the hearing proposed here.

In my experience, open accountable government, democracy and a healthy environment for economic growth are synonymous. Government corruption can gum up the works in every aspect of human life, including the economy. My business has suffered and I have not made additional investments that might well have produced more jobs locally.

I do not need to establish the criminality of the underlying charges to demonstrate that Ms. Bertram’s response is unethical. As a private citizen I am not authorized to bring criminal charges, nor can I subpoena documents, nor is it obstruction of justice to mislead me. My FOIL submissions to the town of Stuyvesant are routinely rejected and ignored. Despite these handicaps in obtaining and verifying information, in the proposed hearing at the county level I would argue that 1) the underlying charges were serious, well substantiated and actionable; and 2) Ms. Bertram’s response was entirely inappropriate.

My necessarily superficial investigation of town finances and practices found serious problems: solicitation of inappropriate payment, movement of funds from the town bank account to contractor pockets without paperwork, invoice fraud, assessment manipulation allowing privileged property owner to avoid paying taxes, filing false statements and frequent pre-dawn observation of a residence.

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors should not allow this example to serve as a model for the county. However, Ms. Bertram deserves a chance to answer my charge that she retaliated against me for bringing ethical violations to her attention. Therefore, a hearing is absolutely necessary, unless Ms. Bertram avails herself of Chairman Brown's offer to discuss resignation. In my letter of Thursday, February 3, 2011 to Chairman Brown I argued that the Ethics Board itself is the proper venue for this hearing. Otherwise, the entire Columbia County Board of Supervisors would hear the case without the benefit of an advisory opinion.

There is no equal protection under the law, no due process, and no accountability in Stuyvesant. The concerted effort by many officers of the government is intended to ruin my business, the way I provide for my family, and, potentially, put me in jail on a false charge. Since I am obviously wholly innocent, the real purpose of this extraordinary campaign against me was an attempt to intimidate and silence me, to punish and convince me not to exercise my constitutional rights.

Prior to the coordinated attack on my rights by this town government, my life was dangerously close to perfect: prosperous, surrounded by beauty and happiness. I have a lot to lose. As a private citizen with no institutional standing and as a business owner vulnerable to politically motivated manipulation of zoning rules, I am vulnerable.

Vulnerable or not, punished or not, imprisoned or not, impoverished or not, I will never compromise when it comes to basic principles of fairness. The curse of this campaign against me may be a disguised blessing, revealing a prize I took for granted prior to this struggle: the Constitution of the United States of America. If I were put a higher price on a permit or almost anything else than I do on my constitutional rights I would disgrace to the blood of patriots. “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors should not embrace open defiance of bedrock principles of American jurisprudence by leaving Ms. Bertram in her position as chair of the Ethics Board. Ms. Bertram’s response to allegations of corruption and abuse in her own government in the town of Stuyvesant was wholly inappropriate and should not be a model of ethical behavior to be embraced at the county level.

I will be at the Columbia County Board of Supervisors meeting tomorrow night, Wednesday, February 9, at 7:30 PM. If logistical and jurisdictional issues need to be hammered out in person, I will be available to speak individually with any board member or with the board as a group if public comments are allowed or authorized tomorrow. Thank you for your attention to the issue of corruption in government in Stuyvesant, Columbia County, and how we might start to stamp it out. See you all tomorrow.


Will Pflaum
PO Box 40
Stuyvesant Falls, NY 12174

Links to documents (some files make take a minute or two to load):

Documents presented to Roy Brown, Chairman of the Board, Columbia County Board of Supervisors, Robert J. Fitzsimmons, County Attorney, and David Colby, President and CEO, Columbia County, Chamber of Commerce on January 24, 2011:

Audio of that meeting:

Letters following January meeting with Roy Brown, from Mr. Brown to Valerie Bertram and from me to Mr. Brown:

Documents submitted to the planning board:

Blog entry about harassment:

Blog entry about assessments:

Blog entry about unusual payments:

FOILs and recent issues with access to information:

Audio of December Stuyvesant Town Board meeting with discussion of ethical issues: