OGDENSBURG — Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly and City Council caught an earful from residents at Monday night’s meeting.
Douglas W. Loffler and Scott A. McRoberts delivered a petition that they said contained 386 signatures calling for a referendum on a recent change to the Ogdensburg City Charter voted into place by Mr. Skelly, Deputy Mayor John A. Rishe and councilors Steven M. Fisher and Williiam B. Dillabough. The change affected the duties of the city manager and how department heads are hired and fired in the city.
“It did not take much effort to secure these signatures in a short amount of time.” Mr. Loffler said. “What was astounding to me was so many people that signed the petition supported and voted for you in the fall. We only had three people decline to sign this petition.”
Mr. Loffler also read comments that people gave him when they signed the petition.
“Why did I vote for these guys? This is not what I voted for. They sold us a bill of goods.” Mr. Loffler read.
Mr. Loffler called on Mr. Skelly directly to push for the referendum.
“Mr. Mayor as you said at the last meeting, and I am going to quote you, ‘I would love a referendum.’ Now is the time you could show some leadership, step out of the backroom where many decisions are being made, by three or four of you, and give the taxpayers the right and the opportunity to vote on this very important issue,” Mr. Loffler said.
Former City Councilor David Price, who has been commenting remotely at meetings, was in the building Monday and used the public comment period to add to the criticism.
“You promised transparency, open dialogue and to follow the will of the people. All a lie,” Mr. Price said.
Mr. Price pointed out that the city manager’s public update section of the city’s web page that has not been added to since late June.
“Your frequent closed door set meetings at Fish’er Chips are well known. Where’s the transparency in that?” Mr. Price said. “You’ve rendered the other three councilors voiceless by robbing them of their ability to consult the city attorney. Which means you don’t value the citizens who seek their guidance and help.”
Valerie Sovie used three words to describe how she felt about council when she took her turn at the podium.
“Disappointed, disgusted, duped — that’s how many of us feel. In the past eight months we’ve witnessed your behavior in City Council meetings that have been called, and I quote, ‘childish, vengeful, desperate, ridiculous, juvenile’ and far worse,” Ms. Sovie said.
During the course of the meeting, Mr. Skelly twice threatened to eject people from the meeting who were speaking out in the audience.
Several other people, including former City Councilor Jennifer Stevenson, spoke critically of the mayor and council during the meeting.
City Manager Stephen P. Jellie said the petition would be given to the city attorney to advise on further action.