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Corfu trustee denies running afoul of closed session protocol

In May, Village of Corfu trustees met in closed session and discussed whether the village court really needed both a full-time and part-time clerk.

A portion of that closed session conversion was leaked to Justice Robert Alexander.

At Monday's meeting where the full-time clerk, Pamela Yasses, raised a formal complaint about alleged harassment by Alexander, Trustee Ralph Peterson was accused of being the source of that leak.

At the meeting, Peterson flatly denied it, but a May 24 memo from Alexander to the village trustees suggests Peterson was the source of the information.

From Alexander's memo:

I was amazed when Trustee Peterson informed me this morning that Trustee Graham reported to the Board that the Village Court Clerk Pam Yasses told him that she didn't need the Part Time Court Clerk, (Tom Ingram) and that she can and is handling all the court business without in the him (sic) in her 40-hour-work week. The court clerk does not have the legal right to speak for the Court or evaluate and or comment on the duties or her performance of the court duties to the Board of Trustee members.

Al Graham said today the only place Peterson would have heard about his conversation with Yasses was in the executive session, held the night before Alexander's memo was issued.

Here's the conversation from Monday's meeting:

Peterson: My question is, what do we do?

Attorney Mark Boylan: What do you not do. What you do not do is get on the phone after the meeting and call the judge and tell him what just happened, first of all.

Peterson: I’m asking a question, the question I’m asking is related to this particular situation and the action of the board to pursue this.

Boylan: I’m concerned about action with individuals, too.

Peterson: Well, OK fine, but ...

Boylan: If you’re not acting in concert, in other words, as a board, you're acting individually against the board's wishes ...

Peterson: Are you accusing me of something?

Boylan: Well, I don’t know how this last issue with executive session could have gotten to the judge so quickly. I don’t have any information, but I’m just wondering.

Yasses: Let me say on the record, Rosie, I’m going to call you out because it was you.

Peterson: Well, I asked, that's right.

Yasses: You lied to my face and then you tried to tell me you didn’t tell Judge Alexander something. You did.

Peterson: Where did I lie?

Yasses: You came to me and then we had that meeting ...

Peterson: Whoa, whoa, whoa ... where was the lie.

Yasses: You breached executive session and then he came to me and told me.

Peterson: No I did not.

Yasses: It's the only way ...

Peterson: I did not.

Yasses: Rosie, ...

Peterson: I did not. I did not tell him. I don't know how he found out, but I did not tell him.

Boylan: What I'm telling you is if anybody, if anybody acts against the agreement of the board, you are subjecting this board to potential litigtion.

Tonight, Peterson said he did talk with Alexander, but only after consulting with a staff member at the New York Conference of Mayors who said the board met in a session that should not have been closed to the public.

Under New York law, elected bodies can -- but are not required to -- go into closed session to discuss personnel matters. Peterson said he was told that since the board was discussing a staff position and not the person who held the position, there was nothing confidential about the conversation. The conversation should have taken place in an open meeting.

In his May 24 letter, Alexander accused the board of conducting an illegal executive session and said he, or any village resident, had the option of pursuing litigation to overturn any decision in an illegal executive session.

Graham said the issue came up in May because he went into the court clerk's office prior to a trustee meeting and happened to ask if the part-time position was really necessary.

Yasses, he said, shared with him her thoughts on the matter. He conveyed those thoughts to the rest of the board, which voted to eliminate the position.

At the time, Graham said, the part-time clerk was apparently working on a project for Alexander and Yasses was handling all of the court's business during her 40-hour work week.

The issue has apparently become a sore point for Alexander (who hasn't responded to our request for a statement or interview) because Yasses said he's raised several times with her his belief that she should have no communication with trustees about court business, even though Yasses is employed by the village.

Because Yasses is an employee of the village, according to Boylan, it's perfectly acceptable for trustees to communicate with her and for her to respond to questions about her duties, responsibilities and how they're are discharged.

In emails obtained by The Batavian as part of a larger FOIL request this summer, after this May meeting, Alexander begins a long argument with Mayor Todd Skeet about the re-appointment of Yasses as his clerk.

In a May 31 email, he suggests that the board of trustees didn't follow proper legal procedure in her re-appointment and that he needed a meeting with Skeet. He concludes: "I would like to fulfill the last year of my 24 years as Village Justice with an experienced clerk. I am therefore asking that you confer with me and re-appoint my court clerk."

Alexander maintains in several emails that he has not been properly consulted, as required by state law, on the re-appointment of Yasses.

According to Graham, the trustees feel Alexander gave his consent to her re-appointment in the May 31 email and in a voice mail he left for Skeet.

The board has taken the position that Yasses is an employee of the board and cannot be dismissed by Alexander.

Lisa Falkowski
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Mr. Alexander (in my own opinion) is taking out against a Village employee hard feelings he has related to this daughter's inappropriate position with the Village. Mr. Alexander is drawing attention to the inappropriate position his daughter held (not that she didn't do a fine job, she may have) and making himself look bad. It's policy that she shouldn't have ald the position and therefore had to be let go. It's unfortunate, but in light of other recent Village related matters, it may not be a bad thing.

Kyle Couchman
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Maybe you havent followed the story, but what about the $30,000.00 that the state audit found missing, that when Yasses did an internal audit at Judge Alexander's request she also found the same results as state auditors.

Seems to me the State audit shook the tree up a lil bit. Not the rotten fruit is falling out. This has the potential to become a big scandal. Alexander's nose seems bent outta joint because he doesnt have his daughter there anymore.

Can't wait to see what else starts bubbling to the surface.

jenny warner
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.

mark jackett
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just like any other politician a LIAR, THEIF,and NO GOOD

jenny warner
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/

jenny warner
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jenny warner
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jenny warner
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tom hunt
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There was not any inappropiate in having his daughter fill the court position. This is common in small town courts. What was inappropiate was the $30K missing in fees...........this is what is inappropiate.

Kyle Couchman
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Yeah Jenny, really and does he do this delivering bread to the needy, and visiting the sick in a public way. It seems to me that even the Bible makes a distinction between those who do charity work in a public way to gain recognition of those acts, and those who do it without need of recognition and reward. It is very common for people who are shady to do charitable things like this to build uop a good image and to relieve their own feelings of guilt.

Besides I give the news (tabloid news is not what we have read as it would have to be in a tabloid news format) more credibility than your statements. The news outlets are held responsible for innaccuracies and can be brought to court for such. Where is your proof of these bread deliveries to the poor, or visits to the sick, where do these take place? How does he find out who's sick? Where does this bread he passes around come from, sounds like hearsay to me and from someone like you who vehemently defends one person and puts down another who is just trying to do her job.....Not much credibility there.

Peggy Tost
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As a former village resident, I am extemely embarassed to read about these issues. Are the people who hold certain positions here adults? I am beginning to question that. Oh and where is the missing money?

Jeff Allen
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Kyle, the bread ministry is legitimate and helps alot of people in need. Just wanted to clear that part of it up.

Lisa Falkowski
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I wasn't able to see Jenny's comments (there may be a good reason for that). This is very disheartening. Yes, Kyle, especially in light of the recent discrepancies. It seems there are more to add on. I wish Ms. Yasses the best. Our small town (and others like it) need honest, frank, hard working locals in positions such as this. I am lifer - Geneean and Corfuan. This is very embarrassing. We have good people in Corfu, generations of them.

Raymond Richardson
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In Jenny's case,

"thou protesteth too much"

mike nixon
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my wife and I had to deal with this court two years ago. My wife recieved a ticket,rightly so, for talking on her cell phone while driving in corfu. After pleading guilty to the offense, it took us at least 18 months and involvement from NYS DMV to get it settled. We recieved notice that my wifes license was going to be suspended before we even had a response from the court. After several calls to the court that where never returned, we turned to NYS DMV for help and they did. Here is the best part, the only response from the court was in the form of a final notice letter. WOW... some shady stuff going on here...

Kyle Couchman
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Mike is right I had the same type of thing. I had a crack in my windshield, got the ticket and got the windshield replaced, sent in the bill (stupidly without copying) and waited. Called the court 2 months later, yeah we have it right here they said we'll take care of it then mail it out to you. 6 months later get a notice of impending suspension of liscence for an unanswered ticket. Called them, they said I didnt get in to them. So I go to the glass guy got him to reprint the invoice and went and hand delivered it to the court. They dinged me for fines because it was past the 2 week window for getting it fixed. I said look at the date on the invoice it was less than 48 hours that it was fixed, they then told me but it wasnt answered til now. So it took them 2 more months to send me the paperwork to clear dmv. And doubled the cost of my winshield replacement too.... Such bs there

Paul Witkowski
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Lisa....you are correct. There are good and honest people in the Corfu/Pembroke area, unfortunately long term and generational do not make for integrity and honesty. I have found first hand that the, alleged crimes perpetrated thus far, are only a small part of a much larger problem that exists in our community. The players in this sad comedic episode have long generational ties in this area. You will find, if the whole truth rears its ugly head for those involved, are the ones in which our parents, community and government have instilled and taught us to "trust". A sad commentary on obvious lack of oversight of the individuals in place to administer justice..

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