2018-03-08 / Views

Mistakes happen; it’s how we learn from them

There’s no doubt that Northport has a village chock full of civic-hearted people. You won’t find another place with so much going to advance the causes of a village, from the overnight emergence of a nonprofit arts center to the many hands who help in the Scott Brow trout fishing derby.

There are times, though, when Northport needs to hear a different voice. Not for the community itself, but within the village government.

For instance, much of the background work of the Village Council has been delegated to committees, which meet to discuss normally mundane but at times very important subjects. While committees cannot usurp the authority of the council, their “recommendations” are normally approved at monthly council meetings. Committees are public bodies, and as such must take and post their minutes.

But in Northport, committees don’t take actual votes. They have this strange nodding of heads when a decision is needed. No motions are made or seconded. The result is a “consensus,” which is apparently what happens when Robert’s Rules is left at the door.

We don’t know if that’s legal. But we know ambiguity is an indication of poor governing.

An adult was needed to oversee the hiring of a new firm to clean the bathrooms at G. Marsten Dame Marina. Harbor master Mark Holtz, who from accounts we’ve heard runs a tight ship at a gem of a harbor, helped lead the charge to hire a new firm or person. He was reacting to complaints made by boaters, who expect sparkling heads to go with a hospitable staff.

Instead of advertising for sealed bids for the work, a request went out for proposals.

Two were received prior to the Waterfront Committee meeting held Jan. 19 and reviewed that evening. “(I)t was the consensus of the group” to recommend hiring Starboard Cleaning Service, according to minutes.

Starboard is owned by Sue Holtz, wife of Harbor Master Mark Holtz.

Beyond the obvious marital conflict, there were two serious problems with the process. One was that the timeline to accept proposals was still open when the committee nodded heads. Indeed, another proposal was received later from former Village administrator Frank Goodroe, who maintains that he was fired so that the village could hire present administrator Barb Von Voigtlander at a much lower pay.

The process went into disarray for awhile before Starboard was hired for $30,000, about $1,000 less than Mr. Goodroe’s proposal.

The other problem was contained in emails submitted by Ms. Holtz with her proposal. She elicited recommendations using email addresses of harbor users. One email stated, “Mark Holtz, our Harbormaster, just called me re: an email that his wife, Susan, sent out to several of us who have expressed concerns about our bathrooms and showers, and their questionable state of maintenance.”

Let’s look at three people mentioned. The Holtzes are good people. Ms. Von Voigtlander is a good person.

Good people make mistakes. Happens all the time.

What went missing through all this, though, was the impact of having an adult in the room.

Someone to say process counts and conflict of interest is a controllable event.

Missing was someone to stand up to say things went terribly wrong this time, but we learned from the experience. Northport is too fine of a village to allow this to happen again.

We’d like to hear that voice.

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