Town Clerk Diana Quast’s status on the Parks and Recreation Commission is in limbo after her appointment by the outgoing administration was declared “invalid” by the new one.
Quast, who chairs the commission, was reappointed by the Town Board on Tuesday, Dec. 17. The Democratic-controlled board approved her appointment 3-1, with Republican Tom Diana casting the lone vote against it (fellow Republican, Councilman Ed Lachterman, was absent). Her new term began Jan. 1, a day after former supervisor Ilan Gilbert exited office.
Town Attorney Adam Rodriguez, tasked by the new Republican-controlled Town Board with reviewing Quast’s appointment, said outgoing elected officials cannot make appointments that begin after their terms end.
“Effectively, it’s meant to prevent lame-duck type scenarios from binding their successors without the authority to do so,” Rodriguez said. “In Mrs. Quast’s case, the vacancy arose on Jan. 1, 2020, but the terms of office of past Supervisor Gilbert expired on Dec. 31, 2019.”
At the first Town Board meeting of 2020 held on Tuesday, Jan. 7, the issue of the appointment was raised and on Tuesday, Jan. 14, the board went into executive session to discuss the reappointment of Quast to the commission.
When the board returned to public session, Supervisor Matt Slater said the appointment of Quast, a Democrat, was invalid.
“We tasked the town attorney with researching that claim. It is of his opinion that the appointment of Diana Quast to the Recreation
Commission was invalid because officials and boards may not make appointments of vacancies that occur past their term of office,” Slater said.
However, in an interview with the Yorktown News, Slater said, “No official action has been taken, so I think she’s still on the commission until the board makes a decision. We’ve been talking about it. Unfortunately, Councilwoman [Alice] Roker, for health reasons, has not been able to be as involved in the conversation as she wants to be so, out of respect for her, we’re waiting for her to provide some input from her standpoint since she’s been part of this town for so long that she brings some really great insight to these conversations.
“But from the law standpoint, at least from what we’ve been given, it’s rather clear the appointment itself is invalid.”
With the issue of improper appointments being discussed, Lachterman said at the Jan. 14 meeting that this gives the members of the board the opportunity to take a look at the issue of department heads playing a large role on volunteer boards, echoing the same concerns as Diana.
“I think it gives us the opportunity to have the dialogue because I would like to discuss the 28 or 29 percent of our [volunteer] boards being elected officials and 42 percent being department heads. I think it’s contrary to what the Parks and Recreation Commission establishment was,” Lachterman said.
When asked, Slater said he agreed that there needs to be a review of boards and committees.
“I think that’s what we need to do. I think we need to go through and take a look at committees, commissions and advisory boards,” Slater said. “One that was brought up Tuesday night [Jan. 28] was our ethics board. The ethics board states the way that they’re governed is that they are supposed to have staggered terms and I think we have four people” whose terms “expire the same date and the same year. So that’s not how it’s supposed to work. Somewhere, someplace, it got off-kilter.”
Slater also said that he thinks the board should review whether some committees are still active, and if not, consider disbanding them.
“I think we need to take a look at just the governing documents. We’ve got governing resolutions from the ‘60s, so I think it’s only fair for us to take a look and just make sure they are still relevant,” Slater said.