On a Friday afternoon, anyone on the Bronx Community Board 8 mailing list received a revised agenda for the upcoming full board meeting the following Tuesday: There would be an election for a new chair to the environment and sanitation committee.
That was a bit of a surprise, especially since Laura Spalter has been a fixture on that committee for quite some time. Yet now, seemingly out of nowhere, it was yet another CB8 post open.
Unlike other recent departures, however, this wasn’t too much of a surprise. Spalter had publicly expressed her desire to replace Paul Ellis as vice chair of the entire community board, something chair Rosemary Ginty shared at an executive committee meeting just a couple days before.
By Friday, Spalter resigned her seat, and there was a mad rush to replace her, ensuring the full community board would vote in a new chair just a few days later.
Robert Fanuzzi ultimately won the chairmanship against Charles Moerdler’s nominee of Carlos Wilcox, and that makes sense. Fanuzzi is a member of the committee, and in fact, was its vice chair.
But that’s the thing ... what was the hurry? As vice chair, Fanuzzi could have run that committee for months if need be, even to the end of term. Yet, Ginty felt it was super-urgent to fill that seat, so much she bypassed the standard 10-day notice rule for votes such as this.
What wasn’t super-urgent to fill? The chairmanship to CB8’s housing committee. Which is strange, because it’s been vacant for weeks now. Seven of the nine members are brand-new to the board, according to Ginty, and they not only don’t have a chair, but they don’t have a vice chair.
That seat isn’t expected to be filled until December, however. When a reporter asked a board member after the meeting last week what the hurry was for environment and sanitation, he said they needed to make sure there was a chair. But why no hurry for housing, then?
“We haven’t found the right person yet.”
We? Who is this “we?”
Nominations for open positions like the chair come directly from the floor. Anyone on the board can nominate anyone, including themselves. Of course the board hasn’t found the “right person” yet because no one has bothered to call the question on the floor.
Silly us, however. That’s not how things work. At least not under Ginty. A decision is made outside of the public eye, and then that’s the person everyone backs.
You know, like for vice chair. Ginty made the announcement to the executive committee, and the board got the message: This was the new vice chair. Spalter was so sure of winning a slot that no nominations had officially been called for, she resigned from her committee ahead of time.
Decisions like this cannot be made behind closed doors, yet it appears more and more decisions are being handled exactly that way.
And it’s not just something we have noticed. Remember when Charles Moerdler resigned his chairmanship of the land use committee earlier this year? He did it in response to suspicion of board matters being discussed out of the public eye.
Need time to vet a chair? Great. Call for nominations from the floor, and if you’re not sure if that’s the right pick, delay the vote until the next meeting. But stop making a decision behind closed doors, and then pretending in public the process was transparent.
Because it’s not.