Topsy Turvy Start for New Government in Airmont

By Joel Grossbarth

The newly elected mayor and trustees in Airmont had a tough first day in office following their close March 19 victory over the write-in campaign led by former mayor Phil Gigante.

The newly-elected Mayor Nathan Bubel took the oath of office at noon and then presided over his first Board of Trustees meeting hours later. However, few could have foreseen what was coming.

Before a crowded room of constituents, Mayor Bubel started the reorganization meeting by addressing the crowd and announcing his intent to unify the Village. Unfortunately, unity was not on the minds of the remaining trustees or most in the crowd.

Mayor Bubel’s initial appointment was that of returning Village Clerk-Treasurer Irene Murphy. Murphy retired several years ago after years of serving in the same position. Then the new Village Attorney, Amy Mele, Esq. was appointed. Mele also acts as Village Attorney for Spring Valley, but is expected to leave that position shortly.

Daniel Kraushaar, Esq. remained as Deputy Village Attorney for the planning and zoning boards, a position he has kept in Airmont for almost 10 years. Then the mayor started making appointments to the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Justice Court. Out was Acting Judge Karen Riley and appointed in her place was local attorney Alan Strauss.

Trustees Peter Blunnie and Kevin Warbrick. who remained from the prior administration, questioned the individuals the mayor appointed and their respective qualifications. Many of the appointments were tabled until the trustees could speak with and interview the mayor’s nominees. However, the issue that drew the most ire from the trustees was the agenda item #21, “authorizing the mayor to enter into agreement with Thomas Gulla, LLC to provide consulting services to the village.”

Gulla was responsible for assembling the ticket that eventually won election and the agreement was strongly questioned by Trustees Blunnie and Warbrick. The mayor was interrogated about Gulla’s qualifications, experience and services. It was explained that he would advise the mayor on personnel issues and other governmental functions. Village Attorney Mele was asked about the legality of the agreement and whether it was proper for Gulla to have access to employee records and make policy for the Village. She advised it was.

The real fireworks started after the conclusion of the meeting when members of the crowd started screaming at one another. The conversations seemed to surround accusations of petition forgery that were brought by the mayor against former Mayor Phil Gigante and his supporters. The accusations and fighting became so severe that Ramapo Police needed to be called to clear the meeting room and separate the crowd.

Following the meeting, Village Clerk Irene Murphy submitted her resignation. The village will have to find a new clerk while the transition of the new government continues. With the village now being apparently more divided than ever, Mayor Bubel will certainly have his hands full. We wish him well.