Commissioner Martin Tellalian, a self-described minority member of the village council, said he doesn’t mind losing a vote once in a while, but is growing tired of the lackadaisical manner with which he alleges his colleagues conduct themselves.
In the wake of a 4-1 vote to settle an advertising company’s lawsuit, Tellalian is calling out members of the council for what he perceives as a lack of substantive discussion. A July 28 vote that will allow a billboard to rise from a height of 75 feet to 110 feet was preceded only by Tellalian’s comments, and was apparently the last straw for the commissioner. While explaining his opposition to the settlement after the vote, Tellalian said he’s increasingly frustrated by the silence on the dais.
“I don’t feel like the commissioners are prepared,” Tellalian said. “I don’t understand the lack of discussion on an issue like this, especially by Mike Curry, who has felt so strongly about billboards.”
Curry, who was elected to the council with Tellalian in April 2007, said any questions he might have on an issue are often answered prior to the start of the public meeting. Council members meet every second and fourth Monday of the month and receive their packet the Friday before. Curry said it’s a more efficient use of everyone’s time if he can ask department heads, fellow commissioners and the mayor to clarify an item on the agenda beforehand.
“I want to go in knowing all the answers to my questions,” Curry said of his meeting preparations. “I don’t want to make a decision in 30 seconds.”
Mayor Anthony Calderone, who has held public office for more than a decade, said he believes commissioners are showing up prepared and have engaged one another appropriately during meetings. He described Tellalian as a “debater” who enjoys public discourse, but questioned the first-term commissioner’s motives. Both a public good and “showmanship” are two reasons to initiate a debate, said Calderone, and at times Tellalian has been guilty of seeking the spotlight.
“I generally find that the elected officials are doing their homework … and that the level of debate is acceptable,” Calderone said.
If there’s any grandstanding, said Tellalian, he is not the guilty party. Curry, also a first-term commissioner, shamelessly mugs for the public access television camera that records each council meeting, said Tellalian.
“I’m not the commissioner who speaks to the camera about community events,” Tellalian said. “I’m not the one facing the camera at the end of the meeting.”
Curry acknowledged his practice of reciting various events at the end of each council meeting, but denied being a ham.
In the months leading up to the April 2007 election, council candidates vowed to restore order to the office after a tumultuous four years during which heated and personal exchanges broke out during public meetings. Certainly there have been disagreements on this council in the last 15 months, but the characterizations now being lobbed back and forth are the first public signs of a potential personality clash.
“Marty is an extremely passionate person,” Commissioner Rory Hoskins said. “I respect Marty. He obviously does his homework, and we all put in our hours.”