WEEDSPORT — During a special meeting on Wednesday, the Weedsport Board of Trustees went into an executive session to discuss pending litigation with an unidentified village employee, with Mayor Jean Saroodis insisting that an additional attorney join the executive session.
The meeting came two weeks after a regular village board meeting on Feb. 14 in which Trustee Chris Lukins was released from his responsibilities as deputy mayor by Saroodis. At the Feb. 14 meeting Saroodis also said issues prevented the village from being able to approve Feb. 8 meeting meeting minutes. The village has refused to make the meeting minutes public, possibly in violation of the state's open meeting law.
The mayor asked the village attorney, David Thurston, if he had anything for the board on Wednesday night.
"I'll defer to the board, it's up to you guys," Thurston said.
"I move to go into executive session to discuss pending litigation with an employee," said Trustee Steve Sims.
All trustees were in favor but Saroodis did not cast a vote. Village Clerk Jeannine Powers later said the mayor typically vocalizes her vote, either aye or no, unlike tonight.
"With that we will go into executive session. But I ask that, a representative of the employee is here, his attorney is here, and I ask that he be able to stay. I can do that," Saroodis said.
Trustee Harry Hinman asked Saroodis to restate her request.
"A representative of the employee is here, on his behalf, an attorney, and he can be asked to stay in the executive session," Saroodis clarified. A long pause followed her remark. "Do I have a vote?"
When trustees did not initiate a vote, Saroodis declared: "Then we won't go into executive session."
After a long pause, Trustee Chere Perkins made a motion to allow the attorney, "so we can continue with this matter."
"Do I have a second?" Saroodis said. "Do I have a second?" she repeated. "We made a motion that he attend the executive session. You can do that."
After a long pause, Hinman asked who the attorney was, and Saroodis said his name was Richard Graham.
The village board lingered in silence for 30 seconds.
"OK," Saroodis said, "can I have a vote? I've asked twice, or I have a motion, and have asked twice for a vote.
"That's that, there will be no executive session and the meeting is adjourned," Saroodis added after another 30 seconds passed with no response to her request for a vote.
"Any board member can call a meeting," Sims said. "I'd like to call a meeting and I'd like to continue. The meeting, No. 1, has not been closed. There was no vote to close it."
Saroodis began to interject, and Sims cut her off quickly by making a motion to "move to executive session to continue discussion pending a specific employee ... uh ... issue."
Saroodis again affirmed that she had the right to ask that the employee's representative be able to attend the executive session.
"If he wants to stay, he can stay. It's not going to change anything, but if he wants to stay — I'll second your motion," Sims said.
All trustees voted in favor of moving into executive session; Saroodis again did not cast a vote.
The board moved into an executive session with Thurston, Powers, Greg Gilfus, the officer in charge of the village's police department, and Graham.
Barely 10 minutes into the executive session, Powers, Gilfus and Graham were in the lobby, no longer included.
After an hour, Lukins announced the executive session was over. The public meeting then resumed for one minute.
"No decision was made in executive session," Saroodis said. "We need a ... job to do, to approve the outside attorney."
"I would like to make a motion to hire Bond, Schoeneck & King (law firm) to represent the village for our ... situation," Hinman said.
All trustees voted in favor, Saroodis did not vote. Then the meeting adjourned.
After the meeting, Saroodis said "there is nothing to comment. Seriously. We paid our bills and that was it, nothing was decided."
Graham could not disclose any other information other than that he was representing an unidentified employee.