Republican rift grows over vote on water board
Committeemen split with leader
CLIFTON PARK Adam Kramer, vice chairman of the Clifton Park Republican Committee, voiced strong disagreement Sunday with a move by Chairman Bob Wilcox to cut off several town officials from the party’s long-standing network of political support.
Last Friday, Wilcox announced that Town Supervisor Phil Barrett, and Town Board members Scott Hughes, Tom Paolucci and Lynda Walowit should no longer expect the support of the town’s Republican Committee and are no longer welcome at committee meetings.
The surprise announcement came after Wilcox and some other members of the committee openly and repeatedly criticized a unanimous vote by Barrett, Hughes, Paolucci, and Walowit to give a vacant seat on the Clifton Park Water Authority to resident John Ryan.
One Town Board member, Sandy Roth, was absent when Ryan was interviewed and had asked the board to delay action until he could be present. But the board made the appointment without Roth’s input.
“This was a blatant show of disrespect for [Roth],” Wilcox wrote in a memo urging Republican Committee members to attend the Town Board meeting and protest the board’s decision to move ahead with the appointment and not wait for Roth’s return.
Two weeks after the controversial appointment, Wilcox said he anticipated the four elected officials giving an explanation for their vote to the GOP Committee at its meeting last Thursday night. They did not.
Friday morning, in communications now regularly taking the form of e-mails and press releases, Wilcox issued a short statement saying “the [Town Republican] Committee regretfully must inform the community that these elected officials no longer speak for, or represent, the Republican
Party in Clifton Park.”
However, despite his insistence that no major political moves be made without input from all colleagues, Wilcox released this statement about severing the GOP affiliation with the four board members while the Republican Committee’s vice chairman, Kramer, was in Arizona for a long-planned family vacation.
Kramer criticized Wilcox and said he had not been authorized to speak for the entire committee.
“I was not made aware of the committee’s actions to disown four of our Town Board members before the meeting occurred and found about it after the fact via press release ,” Kramer wrote. “If I had been given the courtesy of a heads-up as to the committee’s actions beforehand, I would have strongly counseled against such a foolhardy and potentially suicidal move. I understand emotions have run very high, but this serious action should not have been done in such haste. It was not the right thing to do and I strongly condemn it.”
On Sunday, Town Board member Hughes said he had not been received a copy of the e-mail from Wilcox stating the Republican Committee had severed ties with the board members.
“While I’m sad to see that the new GOP Executive Committee is busy self-destructing, the fact is that Bob Wilcox does not get to decide who is and who is not a Republican,” Hughes said.
Squabbles among members of the traditionally strong Republican Party have risen to the forefront as the town continues to weigh its options for buying into the Saratoga County Water System.
The majority of Town Board members have said they need more information before forming any opinions about whether or not they support the county water system, a decision that ultimately rests in the hands of the five-member Clifton Park Water Authority. However, any open seats on the authority are filled by the Town Board.
Water Authority Chairman Helmut Gerstenberger said as negotiations with the county now stand town residents could pay as much as 40 percent more for water piped in from Moreau than they currently pay from the town’s sources.
Clifton Park Republican Committee member Michael Dudick also released a statement Sunday saying he was not at the GOP meeting last week, and was surprised to read Wilcox’s statement in the newspapers. “I think it odd to be a member of a group that works to promote Republican ideas, images and candidates and have some other members and leadership make public comments against any Republicans in office,” Dudick wrote. “I personally support all Republican town officials, and I stand by my previous statements and actions when I, along with all other members of the [committee] campaigned for all the Republicans who were on the ballot in Clifton Park in the last four years of elections.”
For his part, Kramer said he hopes to see the party work together to mend fences.
“I’m sick and tired of the division within our ranks and truly believe that no good can come from it,” Kramer said. “Families can squabble and may have heated, nasty arguments, but in the end of the day they still must eat at the dinner table together and move forward for the good of everyone. Disowning family members doesn’t stop the dysfunction; rather, it just creates more of it.”