In an angry e-mail, Mayor Shayne Gallo accused a freshman alderman of making “nasty” “disrespectful” and “harassing” demands on department heads and other city officials.
Brad Will (D-Ward 3), meanwhile, said Gallo’s e-mail, which was carbon-copied to all department heads and members of the Common Council, was meant to send a not-so-subtle effort to deny him access to information and personnel.
“He’s attempting to freeze me out from being involved and representing the people who elected me to office,” said Will, who was sworn in earlier this month. “If he intends to marginalize or sideline me, he’s got a surprise coming.”
Will said the exchange began earlier this month when he posted a critique of the city’s website on his Facebook page. According to Will he followed up with a “pleasant” and “businesslike” conversation with city IT manager Kyle McIntosh. Later, at a meeting of the Kingston Local Development Corporation, Will said, he informed Amanda Little Bruck — the group’s executive director — that there was a problem viewing minutes from KLDC meetings on the website. Will denied badgering or being disrespectful towards city employees.
“It was nothing even approaching what he’s claiming,” said Will. “There was nothing nasty about it.”
In his letter to Will, dated Jan. 21, Gallo touts his “digital roadmap” — a proposal put forth last year to improve the city’s web presence — and the recent creation of Kingston 365, a Facebook page to highlight cultural events in the city. Gallo also claims that McIntosh has “cleaned up” the city web page and points to the recent hiring of a tourism and cultural affairs director to centralize event notices online and in social media.
Gallo went on to attack Will’s communications with city employees, accusing him of “arrogance and ignorance” of the separation of powers set forth in the City Charter. Gallo also accused Will of not wanting to work with his administration.
“[Will has] once again demonstrated that you, unequivocally, do not want to be a partner with the executive branch,” Gallo wrote. “In other words, your derogatory and demeaning behavior is not commensurate with your role as a member of the legislative branch of our City Government.”
Gallo then informed Will that in the future he should direct any concerns about city policy to his office before complaining.
In his response, Will characterized Gallo’s remarks as “unsubstantiated personal attacks.” In comments to the Kingston Times, Will said that he believed that, by CC’ing department heads and demanding that questions be routed through the mayor’s office, Gallo was signaling to city employees that they should not cooperate with the new alderman. Will added that a freeze on access to city employees would make his role as liaison to the city’s Comprehensive Planning Committee and KLDC more difficult.
“He’s trying, right out of the gate to put people on notice,” said Will. “‘Brad Will, don’t work with him.’”
Will has been the target of Gallo’s ire before. Gallo supported his opponent in November’s election and reacted angrily when Will, an architect’s criticized the effort remediate the Washington Avenue sinkhole. Later, Gallo identified Will, along with Council Majority Leader Matt Dunn, former majority leader Tom Hoffay and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill as conspiring in a “shadow government” to undermine his administration.
Gallo, who ran on a promise of transparent government, has also worked in recent months to restrict access to department heads and other city employees. Like Will, the Kingston Times was instructed by the mayor to contact his office, not individual departments for information. When a reporter opined that differences in information coming from the mayor’s office and the departments might be newsworthy, Gallo hung up the phone. Since that time, calls to his office have gone unreturned and department heads have declined to speak to this paper on the record about routine matters.
Common Council President James Noble said that his own communications with the mayor’s office “have not been as smooth as they could be.” Noble surmised that Gallo may have felt Will overstepped the bounds of his office in his discussions with city employees. But, Noble said, such misunderstandings are common with new aldermen and Gallo’s reaction “could have been more diplomatic.”
Gallo’s edict on routing requests for information through his office so far seems to be aimed only at Will. Another council newcomer, Nina Dawson (D-Ward 4), said she had always contacted city employees directly and found them responsive. Dawson, who ran with Gallo’s backing and who was scheduled to hold a ward meeting this week featuring the mayor and two department heads, Police Chief Egidio Tinti and Fire Chief Mark Brown, said city officials’ willingness to discuss issues was present even during her campaign.
“Maybe it was misconstrued,” said Dawson of Will’s belief that Gallo was restricting his contact with city officials. “That sounds crazy.”
Dunn said he hoped Gallo’s letter to Will did not signal an effort to restrict elected officials access to information needed to do their jobs.
“If the mayor’s going to shut it down, it will lead to ineffective government,” said Dunn who said he has had limited communication with Gallo. “It just makes the process that much more bureaucratic.”