Seneca Supervisors consider change to allow more speakers; resolution met with resistance

There weren’t many petitioners signed up to speak at Tuesday’s meeting of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, but ‘speakers’ still took center stage.

Fayette Supervisor Cindy Garlick Lorenzetti, who chairs the Government Operations committee put forward a resolution, which would require two-thirds of the board’s support in a weighted vote to be carried.

That resolution would introduce privilege of the floor at regular board meetings. The meetings, which typically are held the second Tuesday of every month are built to feature petitioners at the start of the meeting, but those wishing to get on the agenda to speak — must do so days prior.

Supervisor Lorenzetti said that one main reason for the addition of privilege of the floor is due to agendas not being shared before the deadline arrives to sign up to speak.

Seneca Falls Town Supervisor Greg Lazzaro said that things could become very unruly if such a resolution is passed. He continued, “Not only could it become unruly, but we could also lose focus.”

Lazzaro talked about his experience in Seneca Falls, and how he has allowed speakers to have the floor before — even engaging them, which is not standard protocol.

Lodi Supervisor Lee Davidson also questioned why protocol needed to be changed during the debate. There is currently a provision within the rules that allows the chairman to make a decision on opening the floor up for debate in this format.

“I’m not fearful of what people have to say,” Lorenzetti chimed. “They’re taxpayers; what do we have to hide from?” she asked the rest of the board.

Junius Supervisor Greg Wadhams shared Lorenzetti’s sentiment. “I think people who pay taxes have a right [to speak].” He continued, “A lot of folks get nervous when they have to sign up before.”

Varick Supervisor Bob Hayssen supported the motion and made an amendment to include that privilege of the floor would include a five minute time limit and would follow petitioners who signed up.

That amendment carried by a weighted vote of 423 to 129. Supervisors Davidson, Lazzaro, and McGreevy voted nay to the amendment.

There was some last minute scrambling between Lorenzetti and Hayssen to determine if there were enough votes present to reach the two-thirds requirement. Seneca Falls Supervisor Steve Churchill and Romulus Supervisor David Kaiser were not present on Tuesday.

Due to the nature of the vote, Seneca County bylaws require that two-thirds of the entire board vote ‘yes’ to any resolution that changes the order of business. This effectively made the two absences ‘no’ votes.

Lorenzetti made a motion to table the resolution, which was seconded by Hayssen. The board decided by a count of 7-4 to table it — which broke down to a 398-183 vote.

The board will evaluate this measure at the next regularly scheduled session for December.

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