The bloody free-for-all that went down at Tuesday night’s public hearing for Conesus’ hot-button proposed zoning law change is by far the most disfunctional municipal meeting I have attended in my career. This was small town government at its ugliest. Members of the public shouted over each other. Others stormed out. A kid left the room crying as members of the Town Board furiously ripped each other apart.
Through it all, one unexplainably vicious comment stands far alone. Town Councilman Don Wester had just said that he ‘didn’t feel right about rushing to pass this zoning change’ and asked the rest of the board to ‘give him a good answer as to why this should be voted on right now.’ Wester and Donohue constantly interrupted each other in the intense moment.
Town Supervisor Brenda Donohue: “My answer to that is that you have no idea what the future is…”
Wester: “Don’t even go there with me on the future either, because I know…”
Donohue: “Yeah, you do know. Your wife died. So why…”
Councilman Wester: “Alright excuse me but don’t light up my personal life…”
Donohue: “You were referring to it. Sorry. I apologize. I should not have brought that up…”
Think of the mentality it would take to get you to make that comment, as a public official, on the record, to your fellow board member, in front of 50 hot-blooded strangers, in the public comment section of a public hearing.
Supervisor Donohue may be a decent, well-intended person.
This indefensible comment means least that the intensity of this moment brought out the worst in her in an extremely public setting.
It certainly undermines the public’s trust in her ability to graciously handle high-stakes discussions as a public official.