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Hamburg loses its focus; Squabbling in town government shows an indifference to residents

Is there something in the water in Hamburg? Not through the entire town, but in the liquid drawn from the taps at 6100 South Park Ave.? What else could explain the constant rancor and melodrama raging inside Hamburg's Town Hall other than water laced with, say, vinegar?

A would-be police chief, angry that he didn't get the job, accuses a councilwoman of harassment. She's cleared by an internal investigation, but a federal court case ensues.

A female police recruit accuses him of unfair treatment and his conduct is called into question.

A former clerk says in a federal court case that she was a victim of discrimination before she was forced out of her job.

The Town Hall phones seem to have the state Division of Human Rights on speed dial. Witness the above and the fact that the Democratic councilman, Joseph Collins, accused the Republicans on the Town Board of discrimination against him in his own complaint – later withdrawn – to the human rights agency.

Collins had filed his complaint after the Republicans threw ethics charges at him.

Meanwhile:

*olitics has blocked appointments to the zoning and planning boards.

*bsent an agreement, the 2010 budget went into effect by default.

*When Collins accused a politically connected and newly promoted town employee of writing his own contract, they went at it in the middle of a board meeting.

All this, even with the council agreeing that the nonsense must stop.

Days ago, with Supervisor Steven J. Walters away, the two remaining board members tried to meet in an executive session to discuss some type of business. Shouts could be heard from the room. Then Collins burst from the chamber to tell a group of reporters about the "kangaroo court" inside and that he would listen to no more allegations against him. He left the building out of concern for his blood pressure.

Councilwoman Amy Ziegler – the one accused of being too friendly with the aspirant for the police chief's job – then told the folks assembled for the 7 p.m. session that a Town Board of one cannot conduct business. Meeting adjourned.

There are some who might say that this is what you get with government downsizing, the movement propelled by lawyer-activist Kevin Gaughan that persuaded voters to go with three-member town boards, not five. Each member becomes more able to obstruct the flow of business. The wobbly wheels of government can fall off.

Such a conclusion would be off-base. The Hamburg Town Board was not all sweet, airy and light when it was larger. Hamburg's dysfunction stems from poor behavior, a bipartisan obsession with political power and an indifference toward the town's residents.

All this is to say: Hamburg town government, you are better than this. Get your act together and focus on serving your 57,000 residents.