Jason West tops off the tank

We don’t think that the trustees on the New Paltz village board quite appreciated the humor of last Wednesday night’s (March 21) meeting the way we did, but perhaps they’ll be able to at some future date.

New Paltz mayor Jason West, clearly struggling to restrain his normal tendency for stark rudeness toward the other board members, brought forth the proposed village budget for 2007-2008.

Cutting to the chase: Not only did West include the raise for his job that the board had rejected last fall, but he topped off the tank by proposing to hike the salary another 10% above that. He originally asked the board to raise him up to $40,000; for this next budget he penciled it in at $44,000.

When he took office in 2003, the job paid West $8,000. He had already worked that up to $25,000 during his first term, which ends this June.

But the hilarity didn’t stop there. West explained that because he didn’t want to surprise the board members with the proposed raise he spoke to each of them about it before the meeting. The problem with that was that two of the trustees, Julia Walsh and Michael Zierler, didn’t seem to recall any such notification. Walsh seemed mildly befuddled by it, as if wondering whether she had suffered a dropped memory. Zierler insisted that he had no such conversation with West.

Zierler was clearly growing hot under the collar, but regretably kept it under control.

At the other end of the table, trustee Terry Dungan, West’s opponent for mayor in the coming election on May 1, stared icily at West. He objected that a task force recently charged with studying village management, including the scope of the mayor’s job, would be undercut by raising the mayor’s salary before it completed its work. West insisted that the raise would only be a stop-gap until the task force made its report.

The task force was formed in response to West’s insistence that he needed even more money than the tripling of his original salary he had already received. Local grandees responded with proposals to either dissolve the village or hire a village manager, which would have abolished the mayor’s job or removed any administrative duties that might have accumulated around it, respectively.

West justifies the raise by insisting that everyone recognizes that the mayor’s job is a full-time position. The problem with that seems to be that “everyone” is West and a few of his most ardent supporters.

It’s not clear at all that the job of village mayor in New Paltz is anything close to a full-time job, and so far the only evidence for it being so is West’s assertion that it is. Just what West does to make the job a legitimate 40-hour position is a matter of speculation. He has never produced time sheets of the type that attorney’s keep where work is recorded in ten-minute periods, and he has no supervisor who could verify his actual work load.

The day-to-day clerical matters of the village are handled by the village clerk’s office. Bleu Terwilliger manages the department of public works and its employees. The village building inspector works independently. The police department is overseen by the town government. The village mayor’s job is mainly and largely a policy position. West appears to have a rather expansive view of his responsibilities.

The smart money says that Parkinson’s Law is at work.

Update: Billy Beck offers an old-fashioned solution.

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