The Hezitorial follows Inspector General Schorr’s summation.
This report is issued in response to a letter received September 23,2010 from a majority of the City Council that directed the Inspector General to "investigate and render a decision" regarding "whether the CRC [Charter Revision Commission] followed correct process for noticing some of their meetings and hearings and if not, whether the commission's charter amendment proposal is in fact valid and should appear on the upcoming ballot."
Summary of Findings and Recommendations
The City of Yonkers Charter Revision Commission ("CRC") held two public hearings in order to address proposed amendments to be placed on the ballot this November, and proper public notice is required by law. After reviewing the relevant facts and law, we conclude that legally sufficient public notice was provided for the hearings that occurred on August 16 and August 26. Therefore, there appears to be no public notice impediment for the proposals to be considered for referendum next month. However, notice requirements for future CRC hearings and meetings should be clarified with a local law adopted by the City Council and Mayor, and interim guidelines for public notice should be publicly disseminated until such law is enacted.1Relevant Law
Section 36 of the Municipal Home Rule Law authorizes the establishment of a charter revision commission with the option for Mayoral appointment of its members. Furthermore, subdivision 6(f) ofthis section states that the commission "shall conduct public hearings." To determine notice requirements for such public hearings, we looked at Section 104 of the Public Officers Law and Section 20 of the Municipal Home Rule Law for guidance.
Section 104 of the Public Officers Law governs public notice for meetings, which requires that notice be given to "the news media" and "conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations" at least seventy-two hours before a meeting that is scheduled at least one week in advance. Ifthe meeting is scheduled less than one week in advance, the public notice must be given "to the extent practicable …at a reasonable time prior" to the gathering. This section also requires public notice "conspicuously" posted on the City web site. Furthermore, it provides that the public notice requirement "shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice."Section 20 of the Municipal Home Rule Law addresses public notice for public hearings for the adoption of local laws in front ofa "legislative body" or "chief executive officer". It requires five days public notice in the absence of a local law specifying a specific time for the notice requirement. We have been advised by the Office of the Corporation Counsel that no such local law exists.
We are further advised that no law has been enacted at the local or state level specifically relating to public notice requirements for CRC public hearings.Background
Mayor Philip A. Amicone appointed the 2010 CRC pursuant to Section 36 of the Municipal Home Rule Law. The CRC held several meetings this year and two public hearings on August 16 and August 26. The hearings addressed two proposed amendments that deal with mayoral succession and the filling of commissioner vacancies. After the August 26 hearing, the CRC met and voted to submit these two proposals to referendum in November.
A majority of the City Council directed the Inspector General to review whether the relevant CRC gatherings were properly noticed to the public and whether the resulting amendment proposals are legally valid to appear on the November ballot. The objectives of our review were to:
1. Determine what public notice was provided for the CRC hearings on August 16 and August 26.
2. Ascertain whether such notice conformed to the legal requirements for public notice.
3. Conclude whether there are any public notice deficiencies that could prevent the amendments from appearing on this year's ballot.
In the course of our investigation, we reviewed the relevant law and interviewed members of the Office of the Corporation Counsel, a representative of the Office of Public Affairs, the City Council President, and a member of the public who appeared at both public hearings and was concerned about adequate public notice.
Our review revealed that public notice was provided for both the August 16 and August 26 public hearings. The CRC noted in its final report that because "several speakers at the first public hearing [August 16J expressed concerns about the notice of the hearing, the Commission decided to hold a second public hearing on the two proposals on August 26,2010, prior to the Commission's meeting on that date." The main question appears to be whether such public notice was done in a timely manner, as required by law.
For the August 16 hearing, an article appeared in The Journal News on August 8, entitled "Yonkers weighs changing mayoral succession rule." The first paragraph of the article stated, "The Charter Revision Commission will hold a public hearing on Aug. 16 at 7pm in the City Council chambers on two proposed changes to the city's charter." This article also appeared on the newspaper's web site. In addition, a representative of the Office of Public Affairs posted information about the hearing on the City's web site and on bulletin boards at City Hall and 87 Nepperhan Avenue. Although it is impossible to independently determine what date these public postings were made, the Office of Public Affairs stated that this was done on August 13, three days in advance, and there is no evidence to the contrary.
The second public hearing, which occurred on August 26, was scheduled a week in advance, on August 19. The City emailed a paid legal notice to The Journal News on August 20, which did not appear in the paper until August 25. Because the City provided notice over seventy-two hours in advance, it met the requirements of Section 104 of the Public Officers Law. In addition, notification was posted on the City's web site and on bulletin boards in City buildings on August 20, according to the Office of Public Affairs. Corroborating evidence of these postings was provided to us, although the dates of the notice could not be independently verified.
The standard for timely public notice for a CRC hearing is not specified by local or state law according to the Office of the Corporation Counsel. In the absence of specific controlling legal authority for CRC hearing public notice, the City reported that it sought guidance from two other laws that address different types of public gatherings: Section 104 of the Public Officers Law and Section 20 of the Municipal Home Rule Law.
The Public Officers Law, which sets forth public notice requirements for public meetings, not public hearings such as the August 16 and August 26 CRC hearings, requires seventy-two hour notice when meetings are set a week in advance. Utilizing this standard, both CRC hearings were publicly noticed in a timely manner with mention in The Journal News and postings on the City's bulletin boards and web site.
The Municipal Home Rule Law, which addresses public notice for public hearings in front ofa legislative body or chief executive officer, not a commission as with the CRC hearings, requires five days public notice in the absence of a local law that sets forth a specific time period. Ifjudged by the spirit ofthe Municipal Home Rule Law, the August 16 hearing was publicly noticed in time by the article in The Journal News. Furthermore, the August 26 hearing appears to have been publicly noticed six days in advance to The Journal News and on the City's web site and bulletin boards.
Although there seems to be legal and public confusion regarding the correct standard of public notice required for CRC public hearings, the actions of the City regarding the August 16 and August 26 public hearings appear sufficient. Both hearings were preceded by information appearing in The Journal News, on the City's web site, and on City bulletin boards.
However, the City should act in order to codify public notice requirements for future CRC hearings and meetings. We recommend that the City Council and Mayor adopt a local law, as discussed in Section 20 of the Municipal Home Rule Law, which provides for a specific time line and manner for CRC public notice. We suggest that this law provide for a minimum of five days public notice. Furthermore, in the absence of City Council action on this subject, we recommend that the Office of Public Affairs and the Office of the Corporation Counsel publicly issue specific interim guidelines for the time and manner of future public notice for CRC hearings and meetings so that confusion can be avoided.
Conclusions and Recommendations
After reviewing the relevant facts and law, we conclude that both the August 16 and August 26 CRC hearings were conducted after sufficient public notice. Therefore, we see no public notice deficiency that would prevent the CRC proposals from appearing on the November ballot.However, there is apparent legal and public confusion regarding the requirements for notice for CRC hearings and meetings, and therefore we recommend that the City Council and Mayor adopt a local law setting forth a five day time period for notice requirement and specify the form that this notice must take. Furthermore, until the City Council acts on such a law, the Office ofPublic Affairs and the Office of the Corporation Counsel should publicly issue interim guidelines that the City will follow for future CRC public notice.
The Hezitorial based on Mr Schorr's Study of the Conduct of the Charter Revision Commission
Inspector General Dan Schorr ‘s study entitled “Public Notice for Charter Revision Commission Hearings" has been formulated by information and evidence made privy to him by his investigative prowess and the input from City Hall’s “in the know” protagonists. It is the very evidence expressed by Mr Schorr that undermines his veracity. His abilities have been undermined by his being kept at a distance by an inferred “City Hall" protocol that falls into a “need to know” basis.
The Yonkers Tribune has been made aware of email correspondence in which Mayoral Communications Director David Simpson is allegedly beseeched by Yonkers Corporation Counsel John DeAngeli to make notice of an August 2, 2010 meeting in email dated August 3, 2010. It may behoove Mr Schorr to request this specific email thread, the one referred herein, to recognize his being played for a fool. Yonkersites have learned not to be duped by such conduct.
The conduct by Yonkers City Hall in the telling of this circumstance by Mr Schorr’s lack of receipt of the financial books permitted him access for audit of the Yonkers Board of Education continue to further undermine any respect his work should engender.
Mr Schorr is protected in his four year term from being dismissed by any mayoral action. Mr Schorr best consider complying with the law he expressed to the Yonkers City Council he would abide by, that is finding residence in Yonkers. To that end, he must move his residence to the City of Yonkers. He is obligated to do just that within 6 months of acceding to office. He continues to skirt the law. If he cannot comply, he must resign forthwith.
Further, Mr Schorr must do his job, such as complete the audit or depart his $165,000 per anum remunerating position. Mr Schorr has become the poster child for having the Office of Inspector General to be shut. He has done nothing to earn his pay.
The words Mr Schorr used in his political run for Westchester County District Attorney resonate hollow in retrospect. Pity. This editor had hopes for his righting the wrongs of Yonkers governance.
The search for a sheriff for Yonkers continues. Mr Schorr has failed.