Mayor hands Development Board appointments to code administrator
Hagmann resigns as active alternate
SARANAC LAKE — As the Development Board here seeks to fill two vacancies, village Mayor Clyde Rabideau is stepping back from the selection process as his development company currently has an application pending before the board.
C.J. Hagmann resigned from the board last week in a letter he sent to village Development Code Administrator Paul Blaine. In his letter, Hagmann said he was ready to cycle off the board in 2018 but was drawn back in for three more years.
“I faced time constraints with my business, raising my two boys and other volunteer work,” Hagmann wrote. “Unfortunately, due to the same time constraints … I do not believe I can assist in this manner any longer.”
Three years ago he agreed to become an “alternate” when Allie Pelletieri joined the board. The board’s two alternates come into play when a regular board member is unable to participate in a vote.
Hagmann resumed his regular board role after the unexpected death of Tom Boothe in October 2020, who had been the board’s chair. He said he only did this to keep the board intact with a quorum.
The board has not filled the vacancy left by Boothe. Donna DiFara is the board’s current chair.
Usually, the mayor is involved in the vetting process of appointing development board members, but Rabideau said Blaine is taking that role over.
The mayor recently reduced a controversial townhouse development permit application to the board to a duplex.
Hagmann was going to recuse himself from voting on the mayor’s townhouse application as he is the mayor’s nephew through Rabideau’s wife Janie (Bevilacqua).
Rabideau said he’d like Blaine to select people who are in the “middle of the road” as far as their views on development.
“It’s a thankless role and unfortunately, too often, subject to unfounded criticism by those who disagree or may have other agendas,” Rabideau said.
At a Monday village board meeting there was also a lot of discussion about the public’s recent critique of the board and the familial relationships between several board members and the mayor, particularly his latest planned development on Duprey Street. Rabideau said those who are critical of this board should remember its members are volunteers and neighbors.
“Please give them the respect and courtesy that they deserve as fellow Saranac Lakers,” he said.
At a Development Board meeting last month community activist and former Green Party village board candidate Fred Balzac asked about possible conflicts of interest with Hagmann and Bob Bevilacqua — the mayor’s brother-in-law. Both were going to recuse themselves from the vote.
Balzac also asked if Adam Harris should recuse himself since he is an agent at Say Realty, which is owned by Rabideau’s sister-in-law (and Hagmann’s mother) Cherie Sayles.
On Monday, Village Attorney Paul Van Cott said the village takes these questions seriously but, after looking into it, found no prohibiting conflicts under state law or village code.
“Ultimately, recusal is a personal decision,” Van Cott said.
DiFara also said Harris’ relationship to Rabideau did not meet the standards for a familial relationship and did not warrant recusal.
Van Cott also asked that people with questions about possible conflicts of interests handle them privately with the village instead of publicly. He said associating someone’s name with a possible conflict, when there is none found, causes trouble for them.
“Words matter,” Van Cott said. “While the public is free to make comment as they wish, we are a small community. These are our neighbors and I invite him to consider whether talking directly with the individuals involved.”
Balzac responded, saying that asking about a possible conflict of interest is “not casting an aspersion on people.” He said this is a “legitimate concern” and should be discussed.
“I certainly don’t mean to put anybody in a negative light,” Balzac said. “I don’t think it should be taken that way. Nobody’s breaking the law.”