Ogdensburg: a tale of two city charter interpretations?

Published: Aug. 11, 2023 at 3:44 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Ogdensburg mayoral candidate Michael Tooley believes he should already have a seat on city council because of a vote taken on July 24 on a vacant seat. However, the city doesn’t agree.

For three weeks, the Ogdensburg City Council has had a vacant, seventh seat.

On July 24, a deadlocked council failed to sit an interim councillor. They voted the same way 20 times - a 3 to 3 split between Michael Tooley and Robert Edie.

Edie bowed out of the race, prompting a 3 to 1 vote, with 2 abstentions, on a resolution to appoint Tooley, which failed to pass.

This week, Tooley sent a letter to Interim City Manager Andrea Smith arguing that, under city charter §C-10, he believes he had the majority, won the vacant seat, and should be sworn in by the city clerk.

“I can’t believe that I wasn’t supported for appointment because of my qualifications or lack of qualifications, so I have to think it is politically motivated,” said Tooley.

City Councillor Bill Dillabough, who supported Edie, says Tooley has his take on the city charter, but argues it also reads that four councillors must vote in favor of a candidate.

“He’s got his own interpretation of it, but we got the charter and the charter says when a person comes on, they’ve gotta be voted and it’s gotta be four people,” said Dillabough,

Smith sent a letter back to Tooley saying, “The simple fact is Council’s last vote to fill the vacancy was not in accordance with §C-10, but rather by resolution. Therefore, I support the Clerk’s declaration that Bill #67 was appropriately noted as defeated.”

Councillor Dan Skamperle, who supports Tooley, says both sides have valid points. He says the issue highlights inconsistencies in the city charter.

“He was basically nominated by majority vote to be councillor, whether there was six or seven people voting and that’s the way it turned out. Unfortunately, the city charter does conflict so legal opinions are legal opinions,” said Skamperle.

Council will meet on Monday to again discuss the vacant seat.