GENEVA — A kinder, gentler City Council? Not so fast.
After talking earlier this year of the need for greater civility, not much of it was on display during City Council’s meeting Wednesday night during discussions regarding appointments to the new Police Review Board.
After another raucous debate, City Council appointed the nine members to the PRB, charged with hearing complaints of officer misconduct.
Six of the nine members were unanimous selections. They are Brian Whitley, Ahmad Whitfield, Charles Barnard, RJ Raposa, Theresa Johnson and Amaris Elliott-Engel.
Will Wolf and Jessica Farrell were approved by 5-4 votes, and Charles King was selected by a 7-2 margin.
The selections to the PRB follow interviews of 37 candidates at seven special Council sessions, along with additional discussions in executive session.
On Wednesday night, the process for seating candidates got off to a rough start when Mayor Steve Valentino nominated Valerie Mallard — endorsed by the Geneva Chapter of the NAACP. Under the local law creating the PRB, Valentino, as mayor, is allowed to make a nomination, but it must be approved by Council.
After councilors John Pruett (Ward 6) and Laura Salamendra (Ward 5) questioned whether Mallard’s employment at the Geneva Housing Authority might result in conflict-of-interest questions, the debate grew testy when Salamendra asked that Council vote on the nine members as a bloc.
However, Valentino wanted nominees to be voted on individually, saying it’s been Council practice to allow individual votes on board appointments if a member requests it.
“All it takes is one person to request separation,” he argued.
Salamendra, who has had many testy exchanges with Valentino at meetings over the past year, disagreed.
“This Council feels it’s important to vote on this as a bloc,” she said.
But Valentino persisted, saying that he had the right to ask for individual votes on PRB members.
“The mayor is once again not allowing my motion,” Salamendra said angrily.
Ward 4 Councilor Ken Camera, a long-time member of Council, said Valentino had the right to ask for nominees to be voted on individually but that other members had to sign off.
At-large Councilor Frank Gaglianese III didn’t like the bloc vote idea, suggesting it showed a lack of transparency.
At-large Councilor Anthony Noone chimed in on the transparency question by suggesting there was a “secret meeting” the prior night attended by Camera, Salamendra, Ward 3 Councilor Jan Regan, Ward 1 Councilor Tom Burrall and Pruett and Pealer.
Regan then clarified that the Tuesday night executive session to discuss PRB candidates was not a “secret meeting,” that all public notice protocols were followed. Indeed, City Clerk Lori Guinan sent the agenda of the meeting to the Finger Lakes Times last Friday, along with the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting.
Regan said she found it “a little offensive” that Noone would characterize the meeting that way when in fact, the issue is four board members — Valentino, Gaglianese and Noone — simply didn’t attend.
Noone shot back that Regan was “an offense to every person who ever sat in that seat.”
Regan’s husband, Chip Capraro, once represented Ward 3 on Council.
Ultimately, Council did vote on candidates individually.
In a request for additional comment by the Finger Lakes Times on the “secret meeting” allegation, Noone said “the executive session was organized by some on council who didn’t want the public to hear what they had to say on the given topic. I believe that what was discussed should have and could have been done in an open session and not done secretly. Just because you’re afraid that one might be offended on what you have to say is not a good enough excuse to hide behind closed doors. It’s hard for people to have trust in their representatives when they’re hiding their dialogue. Having difficult conversations in public is part of our duty, and that’s the way it should be — in public.”
As for the comments about Regan, Noone said he sometimes lets his “emotions get the best of me,” but added that “if you watch a meeting with the current Third Ward councilor and compare this councilor to some of the predecessors, which were highly respected by all, you can make your own judgment.”
Besides Mallard, candidates nominated last night, but who failed to get appointed were John Lynch and Victor Nelson.
Selected unanimously as alternates to the PRB were Andrew Spink, Carrie Corron and Amara Dunn.
This story has been updated to include additional comments by Noone, who responded after the Times’ print deadline, as well as a correction that Ward 2 Council Bill Pealer attended the alleged “secret meeting” on June 1.