Small town politics muddies the water on Grievance Day

COVENTRY – Grievance Day went on as usual Tuesday in Coventry, despite the efforts of Town Supervisor John Phelan to remove the two most senior members of the town’s Board of Assessment Review just moments before proceedings were scheduled to begin.

At 1:55 p.m. – five minutes before the five-member board was scheduled to begin hearing grievances from Coventry taxpayers about their property tax assessments – Oscar Lerwick and Wilbur Day were handed letters by Phelan notifying the men they were being placed on administrative leave, effective immediately.

“You have been removed from the board,” Phelan told the two. He offered no explanation why the action was being taken, saying he could not comment because it was a personnel issue.

Lerwick and Day, however, did not comply with Phelan’s directive.

“We have terms to serve and we’re going to do it,” said Lerwick, who said the supervisor had no power to remove him or his colleague, asking to see “the law” which allowed Phelan to take such action.

Phelan responded by demanding to see Lerwick’s proof that he did not have the authority. The verbal sparring continued until the supervisor threatened to have both men removed by the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office and left the room.

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