Swift Retribution for Hustis
Thursday morning Mayor Seth Gallagher fired a return salvo in the escalating war of words with Village Board Trustee Charles (Chuck) Hustis, III.
Retribution came fast and furious as the Mayor called Hustis into his office at high noon and stripped him of three of five Board positions that he currently holds: Liaison to the Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Philipstown and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Hustis will remain Chair of the Insurance and Risk Management Committee and retain his position on the Audit Committee.
Earlier in the week—through an initial 2-page memo and a series of follow-up emails—Hustis called for the dissolution of Village government (and a merger with the Town of Philipstown), even using the term “revolution” to describe what he hoped to achieve. The issue was publicly raised at last Tuesday’s Village workshop, where Hustis remained silent as Gallagher questioned him.
Trustee Bruce Campbell alerted the paper in a Thursday morning phone conversation that sanctions against Hustis were imminent, and Gallagher confirmed this in a subsequent in-person interview at Village Hall, which ended just as Hustis was arriving to meet with the Mayor.
Hustis said the Mayor asked him to defend his position, to which Hustis said he replied, “The only reason you called me here was to use me as a verbal punching bag.” Gallagher then stripped Hustis of the three positions. A formal announcement will be made at next Tuesday’s Village Board Meeting.
As to the impetus for this radical idea, Hustis told the PCN&R in a Wednesday afternoon interview that it started when Gallagher tried to regain order at the Village meetings by limiting public comments during meetings. “I was not there when they established the policy for comments at the public workshop—I had to work, ” Hustis said. At the next meeting, attended by the Mayor, Trustee Matt Francisco and Hustis, he said he felt that he should not address the issue because he would have been out voted 2-1. Instead he wrote a memo to Gallagher. ”I believe when the quorum is there and the taxpayers fund the politicians’ work, they should be allowed to speak at the end of the meeting with a limited time frame...”
“I have been professional in my conduct and Seth has been downright nasty,” Hustis added.
Hustis said he believes the local government is becoming out of control: “Do we need a Village government? I stand by 100 percent what I said in those emails; I believe the government budget is a rip-off of the tax payers.” And, he noted, “The beautiful thing about dissolution is it’s in village law…The people have the power to petition the Village Board to either do a consolidation or a dissolution study…”
On numerous occasions Hustis has referenced freedom of speech as one of his main concerns. But Gallagher has countered that in a public meeting setting there are always limits on who can say what, and for how long.
Gallagher expressed dismay over Hustis’s recent behavior: “His email said, ‘My whole purpose was to dissolve village government; the revolution has started.’ I have no idea what is going on in his head.”
The Mayor added that he feels that Hustis, unhappy with Gallagher’s re-election in March, tried to pin an ethics violation on him. “And after that didn’t stick he would just go for dissolving the village government [instead].”
For his part, Hustis said that the Mayor suggested Hustis was working with two other high-profile Gallagher foes, Mike Bowman and Gordon Robertson, both of whom have publicly asked for ethics inquiries into various aspects of the mayor’s activity.
Trustee Bruce Campbell said of Hustis, “I don’t know what happened, I think he just snapped under the pressure or something.”
Trustee Matt Francisco, who has appeared to agree with Gallagher on many—but not all—issues, told the paper, “I think Trustee Hustis needs to explain to the residents exactly what he means regarding dissolution and if he is confident that dissolution is the will of not only those who voted for him, but of the majority of village residents that he is entrusted to represent. Further, I would like to understand how he feels his stated purpose aligns with his role as Village Trustee. Finally, as this declaration was made only in response to his request to convene the ethics board, I feel he needs to explain his true intentions there, as well.”
Gallagher told the PCN&R he will not seek to remove Hustis from his position as trustee.