Monday, September 15, 2008

A Double-Donno Day - The People Speak

Here is a letter in this past weeks Manhasset Press on Donno's record as Mayor of Plandome Manor
"The Republican State Committee has sent residents of the Seventh Senate District a flier recommending Barbara Donno's candidacy. It says "Barbara Donno Fighting to Cut Property Taxes." I wonder how many of my Village of Plandome Manor neighbors found that amusing; we know Mayor Donno has spent a great deal more money than her predecessors ever spent.

At the end of Barbara's first year as mayor, March 2008, the budget line for legal expenses was $114,904 over the $60,000 amount budgeted for the year. That is almost exactly the same amount that was spent by the previous mayor for his entire two-year term. This means that the village's legal expenses went from being an item that represented only 9 percent of the budget and grew to 18 percent in one short year. Mayor Donno offers residents an excuse that litigation is costly and she inherited these expenses. Oddly enough, when Barbara Donno brought an Article 78 Proceeding against the village during her predecessor's administration, the legal fees didn't rise dramatically. By the way, our former village counsel, who won that legal proceeding, worked for 10 years with three mayors. Mrs. Donno replaced him to hire a longtime associate of hers as village counsel. She will say that the board of trustees approved her appointment. That is true as far as it goes; the trustees' vote was split, so Barbara's vote was the deciding factor. In her "year in review" letter to Village residents and currently on the website, Mrs. Donno admitted, "The issue of these costs remains a concern to me..."

You also have to look at the quality of advice the board of trustees and mayor received for this very costly service. The village had a road study performed by an outside engineering firm to address safety concerns raised by residents. At the June 26, 2007, board of trustees meeting, the board approved the recommendations. Mrs. Donno cast the deciding vote. But the recommendations have not been completely implemented yet. Why hasn't counsel advised the board that this failure to improve safety conditions leaves the village with a greater liability should an accident occur in the area studied?

In late August, 2007, Mayor Donno called an unscheduled meeting of the board to approve the issuance of a bond for a large road project. There was no notice given to residents; personally I thought the meeting was held illegally and refused to vote at that time. It was interesting that counsel was not present at that unscheduled meeting. One of our village residents wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Manhasset Press saying the "hastily called meeting is irresponsible..."

On July 17, 2008, a Legal Notice appeared in the Manhasset Press giving notice of a zoning board hearing that evening. These notices are supposed to appear at least a week in advance; why wasn't counsel reminding the village that this was inappropriate and leaving the village open to litigation?

When she ran for mayor, Barbara's campaign letter referred to the newly revised Code of Laws passed in 2005 and 2006 and said "ensure that they are necessary and appropriate for our village." Only minor changes have been made since Barbara took office. Did the previous mayor and board do such a good job, or is she afraid to spend the money it would take to have her counsel do a review?

That same letter complained about permit fees. Barbara's term of office is almost three quarters over. If she hasn't been able to reduce the fees in this small village, how does she expect to do it in New York State?

In taking credit for controlling and reducing village expenses, Mayor Donno fails to realize that signing a contract to have work done means you have to ensure that all the work is being done. I refer to the village's contract to have landscape maintenance performed in public areas of the village, including our memorial garden. During my three terms as trustee, I was personally responsible for the garden. Since I left office in March, the condition of the garden had deteriorated. Her obligation to village taxpayers is to see that we get value for our money. It is unacceptable for a candidate who claims fiscal responsibility to permit a contractor to collect a monthly fee when the entire job is not done.

Finally, Mrs. Donno's July 29, 2008, statement says "I will make it my full time job." Has Mayor of Plandome Manor been her "full time job?" She had only served about nine months of a 24 month term as mayor before she sought the party nomination for the State Senate. Was our village just a steppingstone to be used for her personal political ambitions?

Jean Kuskowski"

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