By PJ Ferguson

This morning’s special Washington County Board of Supervisors meeting was wrapped in under 10 minutes, however, with almost no discussion, a new budget officer was appointed.

Hebron supervisor Brian Campbell will succeed Easton Supervisor Dan Shaw, effective immediately. Campbell previously served as budget officer for eight years before Shaw was appointed to the position in 2018.

Hebron supervisor and newly appointed county budget officer Brian Campbell

Shaw was reappointed to the post in January with support from only seven of the 17 supervisors, but due to the county’s weighted vote system, Shaw prevailed.

Earlier this week, board chairman Samuel Hall called a special meeting for the purpose of appointing Campbell as the new budget officer.

“I just didn’t agree personally with the direction the budget was going in,” said Hall, touting Campbell’s previous experience in the role. Hall voted for Shaw in January and voted conversely on Friday.

Granville supervisor Matt Hicks motioned to “call the question” during Friday’s meeting, which when passed, ends the discussion period before the vote is called.

The motion did in fact pass, to the disappointment of some supervisors on the board.

Whitehall supervisor John Rozell

“It’s really good when supervisors can’t voice their opinions,” said Whitehall supervisor John Rozell sarcastically, “This meeting did not make the board of supervisor as a whole look very respectful. I must be from the old school because now you can’t even discuss resolutions.”

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff, who has advocated for Shaw’s removal as budget officer for more than two years, also disagreed with the motion to “call the question.”

“Calling the question stifles democracy,” said Haff.

Haff voted for Campbell’s appointment, stating that Shaw “was not up to the task” as budget officer.

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff

“I have voted no on many of Brian’s budgets,” said Haff of past budgets proposed by Campbell during his previous tenure in the position, “Though I’d rather have a difference of opinion on the budget than have someone who doesn’t understand the budget.”

Haff also voted against discussing the matter further in executive session, a motion made by Putnam supervisor Darrel Wilson.

“I would rather have it discussed on the open floor, so our citizens can observe it,” said Haff.

Hicks defended his motion to “call the question,” which was supported by those who voted for Campbell, minus Haff, stating that there was not any need for discussion.

“I just thought out of respect, I didn’t want to air any dirty laundry,” said Hicks, a sentiment that was echoed by Campbell and Hall as well.

Granville supervisor Matt Hicks

Hicks says there is “no animosity” towards Shaw and that he has been “a big supporter” of Campbell’s and feels he has the right experience for the job.

Campbell also feels that his time as budget officer after the 2008 housing crisis proves that he is the right man to handle the county’s budget during uncertain times.

“We need someone who has been through this before,” Campbell said, “It’s just the hand we were dealt.”

Though he wished that this decision was made back in January, he said, he is eager to get back on the job and use methods from “what worked last time” and learn from “what didn’t work last time.”

“This isn’t about power,” Campbell said, “It’s about doing the right thing for the county.”

Naturally, Shaw said he was “very disappointed” by the board’s decision.

“I’ve worked very hard as budget officer,” said Shaw.

In response to the board closing the debate on the subject, and after multiple requests to receive the accusations made about him in writing, Shaw has officially filed an Article 78 against the county.

With this lawsuit, Shaw hopes to “force the board to respond to their actions” and secure the future of the position of budget officer.

Easton supervisor and former budget officer Dan Shaw

“You will step on toes if you’re doing your job right,” Shaw said, “But with no security, you will have to do what it takes to stay in office. There is a loss of independence for the budget officer to do what’s best for the county and instead serves the board of supervisors.”

The budget officer is appointed to serve at the “pleasure of the board” and is not secured by a term as the chairman and vice-chair of the board are.

Shaw’s attorney, Steven Greenblatt of Saratoga Springs, confirmed that he has been “retained by Mr. Shaw” and that a “lawsuit has been filed.”

Furthermore, Shaw revealed that Hall told him of an email from Hicks after the last board meeting where Hicks allegedly questioned his “mental competency.”

“I still say if you’re going to remove me, I should have a chance to defend myself,” said Shaw, “My reputation is being hurt and by being removed, financially I’m being hurt.”

Hicks denies any existence of such emails.

“That isn’t true,” Hicks said, “I didn’t email Sam Hall anything about that, I’ll stand by that for sure.”

Hall also denied Shaw’s claim.

“I don’t know of anyone who has questioned Dan’s ‘mental competency’ to my knowledge,” said Hall.

Kingsbury supervisor Dana Hogan called Friday’s meeting a “very unfortunate and unfortunate turn of events,” blasting the board for focusing on “political nonsense” rather than focusing on re-opening the county.

Kingsbury supervisor Dana Hogan

“The board’s decision to avoid debate was a cowardly way to handle this matter,” Hogan said. “Not only did we avoid public discussion, they voted to not support Mr. Wilson’s request for executive session to better understand what the concerns were, which leads me to believe there was no substance to any of this.”

Hogan added that he was “particularly opposed to a mid-year term change” and was “not a fan” of Campbell’s approach as budget officer.

Additionally, Hogan felt if the Hall-Hicks email exchange did occur, he would like the opportunity to discuss it and “allow Mr. Shaw to defend himself.”

Hogan felt the move was a “result of his (Shaw’s) diligence as budget officer.”

“Mr. Shaw has always placed a great deal of scrutiny on county spending,” Hogan said, “unfortunately, you don’t make many friends that way.”

Shaw said he “predicted” they would close discussion.

“It’s almost like they were trying to keep the problems from the public,” Shaw said, “Or there were none and they didn’t have to defend themselves. Any way you read it, it’s disappointing.”

Ultimately the board voted overwhelmingly to appoint Cambell, with Hogan, Rozell, Shaw, Wilson, and Dresden supervisor Paul Ferguson voting against the resolution.

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