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Letter: The Inconvenient Truth - Response To Mayor Starkie

(This letter is in response to a letter printed in the June 11, 2010 issue of the Farmingdale Observer, entitled “Newsletter Sent to Residents is Wrong.”)

All of our elected officials answer directly to the taxpayer.  My passion for my community runs deep and that was just one of the reasons I ran for public office, only once thus far, for trustee of Farmingdale Village. Since questioning several of the practices of our present village administration, I have been attacked personally on many levels by the mayor and his friends. His rants and waving of papers at the village board meeting are merely his tactics of intimidation and showmanship. He even threatened to sue me. Yet, that will not stop me from asking questions and trying to get answers about how our taxpayer dollars are spent in our village.

I find it interesting that Mayor Starkie constantly brings up that I was a candidate. He tries to use it as a diversion to the facts at hand. Mainly, that Starkie Brothers Landscaping was awarded the bid for the village tree planting for the year 2007 at the price of $219.75 per tree. This bid is for the purchase and planting of trees in the village.  I accurately stated that for the years 2008 and 2009 the tree contract was not put out to bid, but was merely given to Starkie Brothers Landscaping. This is an undisputable fact. In 2009 Village Clerk Smollett gave the tree contract via village memo to Starkie Brothers Landscaping and the purchase order was signed and approved by the mayor’s friend and appointee, Dept. of Public Works Superintendent Andrew Fisch, for the price of $13,185. In 2008 the same was awarded, again by a letter from Starkie Brothers Landscaping to the village.

Now I ask you, what is the mayor fussing about?  These are the undeniable facts. The New York State comptroller has always stated that competing bids should be solicited to preserve the integrity of all proposals. Who is to say that the other tree contractors from 2007 would not have come in with a lower price than $219.75 per tree, if given the opportunity to bid in subsequent years. After all Starkie Landscaping won the 2007 bid by only $5.25. What will happen this year? Will the mayor allow other tree companies to bid or to continue to let his brother provide the trees in perpetuity?

If Mayor Starkie wants to make it crystal clear of no preferential treatment given to any bidders, may I suggest that no member of the village board should be conducting business with the village, nor any family member, thus preventing the appearance of impropriety.

If we had an authentic village ethics board maybe such charades would not be permitted.  It took two years of my prodding to force a vote to form an ethics board at the June board meeting, and I even volunteered to be a member.  But not surprisingly, I just read that the mayor has already handpicked all three members of the ethics board.  Where is the impartiality?  How will this new mayoral appointed board look at the mayor doing business with his brother with our taxpayer money?  Where is the oversight by the other trustees?    

We live in a small village, one square mile, and as taxpayers we have the right to question our government and their practices.  They work for us and are not beholden to only those that supported them in an election.  Any fair-minded citizen can conclude that the mayor has not been candid with the village residents.

Visit my website www.georgianasena.net and judge whether it is time for you to get involved.

Georgiana Sena