Friday, 21 May 2010 00:00
When Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar ran for that office he was a sitting appointed member of the Herricks School Board. During his mayoral campaign he made several promises to the voters. One was that he would be a full time mayor. To date it appears he has kept that promise. He spends hours each day at the village hall or in the field with staff. That is good. Being mayor is a serious responsibility and there is much to learn and do.
However, there was a more important promise that he made and that he will not keep. That is not good. On the evening of 02/24/10, at a Candidate-Community Forum attended by several hundred people at the American Legion, candidate Ehrbar stated that the voters had no need to be concerned about a conflict of interest between his duties on the School Board and his mayoral duties for the village. He would resign from the school board if he were elected mayor. In February 2010, candidate Ehrbar recognized that there could be conflict between the village and the Herricks School District and to avoid it he would resign from the Board.
However, at the next school board meeting the Mayor/Elect announced that he would not resign and would run to complete the full term of Kevin Dunn who had resigned after one year on the board. His rationale for not resigning was reported to be that “Other board members have full time jobs elsewhere” and there were no conflicts.
Unfortunately, that rationale is totally off the mark, and, perhaps shows a lack of understanding of the situation. From reviewing the credentials of other school board members none appear to be employed in any position that hold the possibility of creating a conflict with the village. However, it is different with Mayor Ehrbar.
He is an officer of two political entities with overlapping boundaries and possibly conflicting jurisdictions. As mayor he has the opportunity of fixing annual municipal tax rates for the entire village and then as a school board member participate in fixing annual school tax rates for approximately half the village. It is nice to hope that both will decline, but recent history doesn’t give much hope of that.
Also, in our very litigious society there is always the possibility of some creative attorney commencing an action against both the village and the school district for some real or fanciful relief. In either case, both entities would have to respond and, as is usual, cross-claim against the other. Let us hope that no such situation occurs. But, if one should arise, it will be interesting to see whether the village or the school district will be the beneficiary of Mayor/School Board member Ehrbar’s support. It can’t be both and it can’t be neither.