Financial Task Force Chairman Potvin Resigns By Alison Simon
Posted May 13, 2011 North Castle’s Budget and Finance Advisory Task Force Chairman William Potvin resigned last month to protest the proposal by Supervisor Bill Weaver and Town Councilman Michael Shiliro to restructure the way that the Task Force reports its findings and recommendations to the Town. The other Task Force members, however, say that Potvin's political biases were the reason he had to step down as chairman. Click to read the Task Force's response letter.
Potvin’s letter of resignation said that Weaver’s proposal to have the Task Force report directly to him is an attempt to stifle the Task Force’s independence and filter the flow of budgetary concerns and financial recommendations to the public. Click to read Potvin's letter of resignation.
The Task Force is comprised of volunteer community members, all with substantial experience and expertise in finance. According the Task Force's mission statement, they are to “assist the Town Board”. The Town Board itself is a legislative body responsible for setting policy, adopting the annual budget, approving contracts and expenditures, and enacting laws and resolutions for the betterment of the town’s residents. The Supervisor is the Chief Fiscal Officer and the Chief Executive Officer of the Town. From the outset, the Task Force reported to the entire Town Board. Weaver and Schiliro's proposed change would require the Task Force to report directly to Supervisor Weaver.
The North Castle Budget and Finance Advisory Task Force was established in early 2010 with the purpose of creating a five-year plan that would ensure proper spending and develop a responsible financial plan for the Town of North Castle. Task Force Charter The Task Force focuses on issues such as North Castle’s capital spending and financial reserves, and the budgets of the Department of Public Works and the Town’s labor force. Read the Task Force's Charter here.
On September 27, 2010, the Task Force presented its progress report and its recommendations to the Town Board at a public meeting. Read the progress review here.
It concluded that if the Town continued to operate as it had in the recent past, the burden on taxpayers would grow to an unacceptable level. The report recommended strategies for change that would rebuild the Town's financial reserves, improve North Castle’s services and affordability, and consolidate labor contracts. Read the public hearing remarks.
The implementation of the strategies proposed by the Task Force is the next step, to North Castle’s financial improvement and future stability. The Task Force members would like the Town to act on their recommendations. Supervisor Weaver’s proposed change to the Task Force and Potvin's resignation in response will not impede the work of the task force.
Potvin believes that requiring the Task Force to report directly to Supervisor Weaver “would dilute or eliminate the independence of the Task Force”. He says that reporting to the Town Board as a whole allows for a more transparent conveyance of information to the Town as a whole, without opportunity for the work of the Task Force's recommendations to become diluted. It is Potvin’s belief that such a change in the organization of the Task Force directly contradicts the Task Force’s unanimous design to maintain independence from Town Board politics.
In his letter of resignation, Potvin stated, “I do not believe that as Chairman of the Task Force, I can advocate this and other issues which concern me regarding the Town's management and finances without creating the appearance of the Task Force taking sides in Town political disputes”.
Paradoxically, the remaining Task Force members also cited the importance of the members' ability to act with objectivity and “remain free of political influence” when explaining why they encouraged asked Potvin to resign. In a letter to the Town Board by the other members of the Task Force responding to Potvin’s letter of resignation, they said the Task Force has never “been constrained in its ability to meet or act independently”. They adamantly “disagree with Mr. Potvin’s characterization that the integration proposed by Supervisor Weaver ... was an attempt to limit the Task Force’s independence or to silence its voice.” The remaining members also cite the importance of continued open communication and coordination with all of North Castle’s constituencies in order to ensure a strong financial future.
The Task Force is made of smaller, unofficial, “work groups” that focus on specific issues while working directly with the Town Supervisor, with the Town Planning Board with other boards to implement their recommendations. According to Supervisor Weaver, the hope is that the Task Force's smaller groups will work in conjunction with the boards that will actually implement their recommendations on a day-to-day basis.
Potvin claims that Weaver and Shiliro brought their proposal concerning the Task Force without consulting the rest of the Town Board. Town Board member Diane Roth rejects any changes to the reporting duties of the Task Force, maintaining that such a change would require a vote of the entire board. Roth says “the Task Force was formed to promote transparency in government, transparency in finances and transparency in decisions” and charges that Supervisor Weaver’s proposed changes to the Task Force's mission were made in an attempt to filter the information provided by the Task Force. Roth believes that the “overall goals of the Task Force can still be achieved," despite Potvin’s resignation.
As for the future of the Task Force, Potvin would like to see it remain independent of the Supervisor and believes it is in the best interest of the community to upgrade its status to that of a Town Finance Board. He stressed his belief that “the remaining Task Force members have the highest competence and integrity and will work to provide independent advice to the Town.” Potvin does “regret that they are being put in a structure where there can be an appearance of being subject to pressure."
The remaining Task Force members say that they “highly value our constructive relationships with the Supervisor and the Town Board, and are committed to addressing the needs of North Castle and its residents by working closely and cooperatively with all Town representatives in the months ahead."