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New CB2 chairman elected after vigorous debate, as Conley steps aside

Joe Conley and Pat O'Brien (seated)

Joe Conley and Pat O’Brien (seated)

Dec. 5, 2014 By Christian Murray

The Chairman of Community Board 2 Joe Conley received a standing ovation at last night’s community board meeting after officially announcing that he was stepping down.

Conley said that after serving two decades as chairman that it was time to move on.

“It’s been a great honor to be the voice of the board,” he said. “I have had a good run…and made life-long friends with the people in this room,” he added, as he began to choke up.

Conley had notified board members two days prior to the meeting that he was resigning.

The timing of the announcement came as a great surprise to many and was the cause of much debate, since last night was the date for the board’s annual elections.

Several members said that they were caught off guard by Conley’s sudden announcement and wanted to delay the elections a month in order for all the board members to evaluate whether they wanted to run.

Lisa Deller, the secretary of the board, however, presented a slate of candidates to take the executive board positions. All but one was on the executive board last year.

The slate was Patrick O’Brien, chair; Stephen Cooper, first vice chairman; Denise Keehan-Smith, secretary; Lisa Deller, second vice chair; and Diane Ballek, treasurer.

Conley said that board members were notified in October that they could put their names on the ballet to run–but no one had expressed interest. Furthermore, he said, people were free to nominate themselves for those spots last night.

“We have looked for nominations and this is a very open process,” Conley said.

However, some members said that the departure of Conley completely changed the course of the election. Others were perplexed why Conley only gave the board two days notice prior to the election.

Sheila Lewandowski said that board members should be given time to decide whether they want to put them themselves on the slate. She, like many, advocated for postponing the vote.

“We have had 2 days and many [board members] are not here to consider this. I think it would be responsible to be thoughtful and wait…this is big.”

O’Brien said he was willing to put off the election a month if it made the board more comfortable. “I don’t want to walk into a situation …where there is a division among people,” he said.

There were, however, several strong advocates who wanted the vote to take place last night. “If you want to run put you name forward now,” said one board member.

The board put it to a vote to determine whether the election should be held last night. The majority won by an unofficial count of 19 for and 15 against.

The election was then held and a slim majority voted in the slate. O’Brien was announced the new chair.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said this morning that he looks forward to working with O’Brien. “He is a good person with strong experience. I worked with him when I was on the board.”

However, he said, he didn’t see the harm in waiting another month for people to think about the vote.

“I m not sure it would have changed the result but the process is important,” he said. “How you come to decision– especially if people are divided –is as important as the decision itself.”

“Normally you would have a unanimous vote for these positions,” Van Bramer said. However, I think the “people who voted no were voting against the process.”

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34 Comments

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Unrest

Let’s go to the next CB2 meeting, scream, shout and protest until this decision is reversed and a new executive committee is established. Let’s get loud!

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sophomore to senior

@QnsDingo how wonderful that you think the sophomore to senior members are completely without fault, when they are the ones sneakily helping to push other residents unpopular ideas through the system in a shady manner.

How wonderful that your head was in the clouds so much at this meeting that you didn’t notice any of the shady procedures, like having the woman who made the motion to vote, vote on her own motion! Or how what is supposed to be a unanimous vote to pass was not unanimous and yet still passed. It is so evident where you sit in this process that you may as well type your real name.

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QnsDingo

I can’t imagine people were at the same Community Board meeting I was in. There were many opportunities, and many times that the executive officers offered other board members to run for a position. It seemed Sheila was the most vocal on pushing the election back a month instead, maybe so she could have enough time to twist enough arms to vote in a candidate of her choosing.

Who do we really want to make votes on behalf of our community? The politically influenced freshmen members who can’t even stand to attend or remain at a meeting, at which they swore to represent the community (then decide to ditch). or the sophomore to senior members who selflessly volunteer their time and nights each and every meeting to fulfill their civic duty.

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PO

The point is not that people were given opportunities to run for a position. It’s that some were not afforded the right to contemplate it. Why is JVB more outspoken about what happened in the last meeting???

I do agree that some of the newer members are there just for political and/or personal reasons and not for the community. JVB knows this full well and he is a guilty party here since he has significant influence on who sits on CB2. Many on the board are his strongest backers, albeit quietly.

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sigh

Corruption is everywhere, even in our own backyards. The way this came about was so shady (half the existing board had left for the night!) and the motion was made and seconded by the same person (who also got a “promotion” through these elections).

I urge you all to email JVB, and reach out to any of the local news stations, it’s time to blow the cover off these comfy, corrupt, self serving CB lifers… SHAME, Shame, Shame…

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Also Anonymous

Of course all kinds of anonymous accusations on a blog are totally free of corruption and/or personal agenda.

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Nice one.

So you are defending what the board did? Maybe you’d be happy living in Iran or Zimbabwe. That sort of sneaky crap happens in the governments there all the time.

Stop deflecting and explain why you think you’re right and so many other people who support open, honest government aren’t.

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Also Anonymous

Not defending at all. They should have allowed more time. I’m just interested in real information when it is here – not the crackpot baseless ones.

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Juanete

Also Anonymous, …of course not, just read your own post.
If you don’t see the problem here, It’s clear you have a personal agenda to denfend.

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Also Anonymous

Sounds very canned Juanette. Let’s be more specific if you can. Tell me, what is this agenda you have somehow divined.

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LIC Res

Departure notice is a gesture of appreciation and respect to ones employer.

Anything under two weeks, particularly after 25 years of service, is beyond unprofessional.

As taxpayers, and therefore the employers of the board, Conley has shown us all a deep disrespect and disregard for the institution he ‘served.’

I’ll check if NYTimes/NYPost finds this interesting.

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Doreen

This is so wrong. I think Pat O’Brien would have won the vote anyway, but this will always leave a bad taste.

I’m hopeful that Pat has more respect for the people than Joe ever did and that he demands a new vote after a months notice.

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Ro

Wow this is fishy as hell. Who ever gives a two day resignation notice effective immediately, unless there is a health crisis or you are forced to resign for wrong doing. There definitely needs to be more explanation for the abrupt departure since this is a public office. Then you add to this the rush to elect someone immediately and it smells even worse. I still don’t understand why our elected officials are okay with this and don’t express their outrage. I guess someone really wants to make sure that there is no liquor licenses for establishments that want to use their outdoors.

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fukitol

Get rid of the whole lot of them! Wipe it clean and start fresh! Set guidelines that future chairs cannot own businesses or have selfish motivation for being on the executive committee. Once fair and unbiased candidates are proposed, pick from a lottery. No more than eight, 2 year terms for members or chairs!

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Also Anonymous

CB2 meets 10 times a year for about 3 hours. Wipe everyone off the Board and a new group will spend the next 2 years trying to get up to speed – just in time to be wiped again. This will weaken the Board, not strengthen it. What is the problem with a business owner/resident? I thought the complaint is we don’t have enough business representation, for example restaurant/bar owners.

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fukitol

You sound like an entrenched board member. I think 2 year terms and no more than 4 consecutive. That will keep people in check. I mean no business owners on the executive committee. On the board it’s alright to have a few.

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Also Anonymous

Not sure why you assume I am either entrenched (whatever that means) or a Board member. I’m speaking from knowledge of how reality works. There are a lot of crackpot ideas and accusations floating around.

Thank you for proposing a sensible way of looking at term limits and I agree with your thoughts.

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PO

There is nothing wrong with having local residents and business owners on the board. The problem happens when, for example, a business owner involved in real estate sits on the land use committee. Lots of potential for conflicts in a situation like this.

This whole process stinks and we need to change it. I think we should start vetting all the current and future board members (e.g., political contributions, local business dealings, etc.) to get a better picture of the intentions of those that are picked to serve on CB2. It’s too bad that local politics is starting to implement the shady tactics that are so prevalent on the state and national level. Shame shame shame.

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QnsDingo

Are you kidding me Also Anonymous? You seem to have long-entrenched knowledge of how the Community Board works, and you don’t see the inherent conflict of interest of having restaurant / bar owners sitting on committees that determine if competing business owners get liquor licenses or other amenities that would make or brake their bottom lines? Maybe you’re along the same crew of people that think it was a good idea to have Rebecca Trent get on board.

I have been in Long Island City long enough to know there is a great, unbiased group that has been attempted to have been wiped out of existence thanks to Sheila and her “Business Women” horde, and that is the Hunters Point Merchant Association. People should look them up.

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WasThereToo

Also Anonymous explained how it works but that makes him/her ‘entrenched’. The theories are fascinating. Last month people complained it was the backward residents blocking licenses. Now it’s competing businesses wielding secret powers over cb2. Aliens are next.

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PO

CB2 has many problems. Term limits is one of many. Local business owners sitting on committees that give them unfair advantages in their own business dealings is another big one. Why do we allow for such things to happen?

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Lic fan

Terms should be limited so that someone, good or bad, cannot hold on to the position for 2 decades. Twenty years of power is never a good thing. Having said that, yes this process definitely lacks clarity and as a result smells bad – not a good start for a new board.

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Amadeo Plaza

This is a disgrace. Not to strip O’Brien of his win, but this shouldn’t have been the circumstances under which a vote of this magnitude takes place. Something’s definitely awry.

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Anonymous

I’m stunned. From the two-day notice to the swift election of only insider candidates, this is a perfect example of opaque and sleazy politics at its worst. To all of you who were hoping there might be some fresh changes with the departure of Conley — snooze, you lose.

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Also Anonymous

A well rounded board needs all ages. You need the stored body of knowledge combined with new perspectives. Anyone who thinks the answer is to just empty it out and start over every few years hasn’t thought it through.

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really..

It’s nice to see in this picture, all this young people stepping in with new and fresh ideas! …How exciting!!!

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Sonny L.

I agree that they could have given the process more time, especially when there were so many absent CB2 members but Mr. O’Brien seems a fair and civil minded person. Congratulations to him.

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LIC

Jimmy how are people voting against the process when you say normally there should be an unanimous vote for these positions? Good talking out both sides of your mouth. I think he waited so that the vote would go this way and get O’brien in.

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What a Farce!

If anyone at all wanted a fair election, Conely would have announced is decision long ago.

This is a farce, as usual. They have NO DESIRE to see a free and open process. While the elected person may be a good one, his moral authority is nil, because he was elected like this.

Kangaroo court and fixed elections. That is America today.

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