CATSKILL — Six weeks after Village President Vincent Seeley resigned, the process of filling the vacancy remains unclear.
Seeley stepped down Jan. 8 after a four-month absence that stemmed from a new business venture. The former village president was elected to his fifth term on the village board in March 2019.
Board members indicated in January they would have to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until a special election could be held in 2022. Questions are being asked about whether the board can appoint a trustee when the village charter states it cannot.
“According to our charter, it says it has to be a special election,” Village Vice President Joseph Kozloski said. “It does say the trustees cannot appoint another trustee, it has to be an elected position.”
Kozloski was unsure if the special election could be held this year.
“You’d have to give anybody who wanted to run ample time or a party [time] to find somebody to run for that position,” he said. “I don’t know if there is a certain law that states you have to give them so much time to campaign. This is all new to us and there’s questions we have to have answered.”
Village attorney Ted Hilscher is investigating the matter, Kozloski said.
Kozloski received email correspondence from Hilschernon Friday morning about the dilemma.
“According to [the email], there was an opinion from the Attorney General in ’71 that says the remaining trustees can make an appointment to fill a vacancy, but again, our charter says we can’t, that it has to be filled by a special election. [Hilscher] is going to check further with the Conference of Mayors.”
Under New York State Village Law, the trustees could appoint someone to fill the position for the remainder of the year, Rebecca Ruscito, a staff attorney for New York Council of Mayors, said.
The village charter could in theory supercede New York State Village Law, Ruscito said.
“I don’t want to speak to or speculate to the village charter without seeing it,” she said. “The Village Law can be superceded. You can have a charter or village code that would supercede the provision of the Village Law.”
The village charter calls for the trustees to hold a special election.
“If any vacancy, except in the board of trustees, shall happen in any elective office, the board of trustees may appoint an elector of the village to fill the vacancy,” according to the charter. “...In case of a vacancy on the board of trustees occurring in any manner, it shall be filled at a special election called by the remaining trustees, upon like notice, and conducted in the same manner as an annual meeting.”
Because of the timing of the resignation, the election will not be held until 2022, Greene County Election Commissioner Brent Bogardus said.
“To go on the ballot this year, the village trustee vacancy had to occur on or before Dec. 31, 2020,” Bogardus said. “So it does not go on the village election ballot for this March. It would be an appointment of the village board until next March.”
Seeley expressed pride in the village’s progress in his resignation letter.
“It has been a great journey and I believe I left the village better than I found it and in the very capable hands of the current village board and staff,” according to the letter. “Many years ago, we coined the phrase, ‘Welcome to the ever-improving village of Catskill,’ and I believe that still rings true today.”
The community will likely see Seeley again, the now-former village president wrote.
“When I am back in the area, I will be sure to come to a board meeting in person when the COVID restrictions let up and I can sit on the other side of the table and get a glimpse into what that feels like after more than 15 years,” according to the letter.