Ogdensburg lawmakers nix Rishe censure

No censure for John Rishe
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:40 AM EST
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Ogdensburg city councillors rejected a resolution Monday night that would have censured one of their members.

Mayor Mike Skelly had been calling for the censure of Councillor John Rishe for what Skelly called repetitive “demeaning and disrespectful” comments towards city staff, specifically interim city manager Andrea Smith.

Skelly said that violates city Administrative Code AR-23.

Skelly was the only one who voted in favor of the censure.

Councillors briefly appeared hesitant to even take up the resolution until Steve Fisher seconded it.

Fisher then adamantly defended Rishe, saying he is calm, prepared, and willing to ask hard questions.

Dan Skamperle said he often takes issue with how Rishe addresses people but added that could be said about himself and anyone else on council at one time or another.

The specific comments in question stem from the January 9 meeting in which Rishe and Fisher questioned Smith over a project she said former city manager Steven Jellie had not directed her to work on.

Here’s some of the discussion from last night.

“Anybody can ask questions sitting up there, Mike,” Fisher said. “You can’t use ... AR-23 doesn’t fit, it doesn’t make any sense, it’s ridiculous.”

“The two of you were setting that woman up, when you knew it had been stopped before her and she wasn’t allowed to work on it,” Skelly said. “You’re both aware of it.”

Steve Fisher: “No, I would not set anyone up, I am sorry.”>

“I think every single member sitting up here, at some point, over their term, has been guilty of the same thing you are implying that John did,” Councillor Nichole Kennedy said. “While I don’t always agree with John, and I don’t, I will say that I don’t agree with this resolution as it’s written.”

In his own defense, Rishe said the accusation he has repeatedly gone after Smith is “totally false.”

When asked, Skelly said no formal complaint was made about Rishe.

Earlier in the meeting, councillors unanimously voted to apply for up to $2 million through Restore NY.

If won, the grant would go to demolishing the buildings where the old St. Lawrence Foods cheese plant was.

Smith says none of the buildings are salvageable.

She says the funds would also go toward site restoration and infrastructure planning for future development.