Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read opened this week’s Common Council meeting by acknowledging the acrimony following an open mic conversation he had with a city councilor that circulated over the past week. He apologized to city employees, but not for having private conversations.
On Dec. 14th, Plattsburgh’s live webstream of council meetings was left on after the regular session was adjourned and a private meeting between the mayor and a city councilor was captured. Although the city soon deleted that 20-minute segment, it had already been saved and circulated on social media. The conversation included a range of topics and occasional comments considered denigrating and insulting by city workers and neighboring town officials. Here’s Read, a first-term Democrat: “That guy who’s sitting on the back of a garbage truck, is he really getting more productive? Probably not. I think he’s probably getting less productive over time. So we’ve got a system that just rewards people in a way that’s completely uncorrelated with what they give back to the city.”
The Common Council met for its regular meeting Wednesday evening. Mayor Read opened the session by immediately apologizing to city employees. “First obviously I owe a I have to begin with an apology. Some of the workers who listened to that thought that somehow I didn’t respect their value and contribution to the city and nothing could be farther from the truth. As a matter of fact further in that conversation I said we really need have to create better ladders for our entry level workers to be able to move up and get promoted within the system and we need to work on creating those opportunities for them to advance and hire more from within.”
But Mayor Read added that he would not apologize for having private conversations with city councilors. “All this talk about scandalous discussions between councilors. I’m afraid I’m not going to apologize for that. I have every right to speak with a councilor and deal with very, very difficult issues. And if any of you want to have that same sort of conversation with me, and many of you actually have, I’m willing to have it with anybody at anytime. So I can’t make apologies for that even though I realize there’s a lot of people that would me to be apologetic for it. If you want me to really be apologetic and back down on the things that we need to do as a city I think you really need to elect a different mayor. So please work with me on it.”
During the open public comment period, city businessman and resident Dan Butdorf brought up concerns about shared services between the city and town. He then asked the mayor to repair the damage caused by the open mic remarks. “I want to ask the mayor to please work on any potential gaps in your relationship with the Town of Plattsburgh. I don’t know what that will take but certainly some mediation maybe, not paid, but just sit down with someone and maybe have a third party at the table and figure out how to get some work done.”
Following the meeting Ward 5 Councilor Democrat Becky Kasper said while most of the content of the discussion in the video is “fair game,” she was disappointed by their tone and disrespect. “I hope lessons are learned and not just about watching to make sure that the video was off but that whenever you’re talking about something that is a matter of the future of the city and people’s livelihoods you have to show respect. You simply do. Otherwise you can’t lead a city. That goes for all of us not just the mayor that goes for councilors too. How can they trust us if we don’t show them respect.”
The mayor had expressed concerns in the video about PILOT – or payment in lieu of taxes - payments received from the town. Read said he has since spoken briefly with the town supervisor. “We both have agreed to sit down at the table with each other and somebody who can help us bring us to a solution. That’s obviously the most preferable way. I believe we have enough tools at our disposal at both the town and the city level that we can construct some sort of an arrangement where the city and the town can both benefit.”
Mayor Read’s full apology comments are below: