Dec. 5, 2014 By Christian Murray
The Chairman of Community Board 2 Joe Conley received a standing ovation at last night’s community board meeting after officially announcing that he was stepping down.
Conley said that after serving two decades as chairman that it was time to move on.
“It’s been a great honor to be the voice of the board,” he said. “I have had a good run…and made life-long friends with the people in this room,” he added, as he began to choke up.
Conley had notified board members two days prior to the meeting that he was resigning.
The timing of the announcement came as a great surprise to many and was the cause of much debate, since last night was the date for the board’s annual elections.
Several members said that they were caught off guard by Conley’s sudden announcement and wanted to delay the elections a month in order for all the board members to evaluate whether they wanted to run.
Lisa Deller, the secretary of the board, however, presented a slate of candidates to take the executive board positions. All but one was on the executive board last year.
The slate was Patrick O’Brien, chair; Stephen Cooper, first vice chairman; Denise Keehan-Smith, secretary; Lisa Deller, second vice chair; and Diane Ballek, treasurer.
Conley said that board members were notified in October that they could put their names on the ballet to run–but no one had expressed interest. Furthermore, he said, people were free to nominate themselves for those spots last night.
“We have looked for nominations and this is a very open process,” Conley said.
However, some members said that the departure of Conley completely changed the course of the election. Others were perplexed why Conley only gave the board two days notice prior to the election.
Sheila Lewandowski said that board members should be given time to decide whether they want to put them themselves on the slate. She, like many, advocated for postponing the vote.
“We have had 2 days and many [board members] are not here to consider this. I think it would be responsible to be thoughtful and wait…this is big.”
O’Brien said he was willing to put off the election a month if it made the board more comfortable. “I don’t want to walk into a situation …where there is a division among people,” he said.
There were, however, several strong advocates who wanted the vote to take place last night. “If you want to run put you name forward now,” said one board member.
The board put it to a vote to determine whether the election should be held last night. The majority won by an unofficial count of 19 for and 15 against.
The election was then held and a slim majority voted in the slate. O’Brien was announced the new chair.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said this morning that he looks forward to working with O’Brien. “He is a good person with strong experience. I worked with him when I was on the board.”
However, he said, he didn’t see the harm in waiting another month for people to think about the vote.
“I m not sure it would have changed the result but the process is important,” he said. “How you come to decision– especially if people are divided –is as important as the decision itself.”
“Normally you would have a unanimous vote for these positions,” Van Bramer said. However, I think the “people who voted no were voting against the process.”