Wake up, citizens of Croton! You’ve heard of carjacking, haven’t you? Well, you’ve just been the victims of a new technique—meetingjacking. Yes, you’ve been scammed and you don’t even know it. An unscrupulous group with their own agenda secretly plotted to hijack a village board meeting and nearly got away with it. Here are the details of the coldly calculated plot and how it was accomplished:
Phase One. A letter was sent to the Village Manager signed by one Bill Rooney. Mr. Rooney is a mysterious individual who writes many letters to the editor of The Gazette, but has never been known to appear or speak at village board meetings. His spontaneous letter on the subject of 1A Croton Point Avenue, the former Metro Enviro property, was made part of the agenda for the meeting on Feb. 5. The stage was now set for the next phase of the scam.
Phase Two. With the Rooney letter now on the Monday night meeting’s agenda, Susan Schmidt, wife of the Mayor, and Joann Minett, Secretary of the Republican Party, conspired to drum up attendance at the Feb. 5 meeting. Mrs. Minett widely circulated an e-mail message urging recipients to attend the meeting and “protest” village actions with respect to this property and attached a flyer prepared by Mrs. Schmidt. These were the famous documents found “floating in a bottle” in Croton Bay.
Phase Three. At the Monday night village board meeting, members of the cabal took advantage of the Mayor’s invitation to speak on “agenda items” and took turns at the microphone to read lengthy prepared statements. Subject categories had obviously been assigned to prevent repetitive coverage of individual topics. A total of ten persons spoke in succession at Monday night’s meeting—not the “more than a dozen speakers” reported in the typically less than careful Journal News story of Feb. 8. In the order in which they spoke, they were: James R. Moore, Maria Cudequest, Antoinette M. Cosentino, M.D., Charles Trendell, Richard Pellicci, Joann Minett, Susan Konig, Regina Montana, Don Daubney, Robert Wintermeier, with a brief afterword by Phil Tamico of 18 Half Moon Bay.
It is curious that among the names of those who signed the Republicans’ Certificate of Participation accompanying the nominating petitions filed on January 26, 2007, for candidates Gregory Schmidt, Thomas Brennan and Susan Konig were six of the ten names from the above list: James R. Moore, Charles Trendell, Joan Minett, Susan Konig, Don Daubney, Otto R(obert) Wintermeier. Joann Minett was listed on this certificate as the secretary of the Republican caucus. Maria Cudequest claims to be registered as an independent voter and Richard Pellicci claims to be registered as a Democrat; thus, they are not permitted to take part in a Republican caucus.
Phase Four. Mayor Schmidt colluded with this cabal and refrained from admonishing the small partisan audience not to applaud or make any demonstrations. He also failed to cut off Charles Trendell, who libeled the three Democratic sitting trustees by accusing them of taking bribes (see: “Charles W. Trendell Charges Croton-on-Hudson Officials with Accepting Bribes”). Mr. Trendell’s embarrassing embellishment was probably inadvertent and not part of the plot. Trustee Brennan underscored each speaker’s statement by repeatedly reiterating the Schmidt-Brennan-Konig campaign position, a blatant act of electioneering prohibited by law at a public meeting. This was reported in painfully excruciating detail in Crotonblog’s satirical “theatrical review” (see “A Satirical Report on Croton’s Feb. 5 Village Board Meeting”) of the proceedings.
In 2000, a similar unscrupulous group with their own private agenda hijacked our national government, and we all know the disastrous mess their machinations have caused at home and abroad. Sadly, we have just witnessed a similar nefarious attempt to abuse the democratic process and subvert our local government. Wake up, Croton, and see these people for what they are! They claim to be concerned about your health and welfare but they are actually engaged in a plot to control local government through trickery and deception. In its campaign to instill fear, the Bush administration has everybody on the lookout for swarthy-looking individuals with strange-sounding names, accompanied by women wearing headscarves. Jackals are indeed lurking among us here in Croton. The people we should really be wary of, however, are co-conspirators like those named above posing as our friends and neighbors.
— John C. “Dusty” Rhodes