KELDER GONE FROM POSITION AS TOWN OF LIBERTY ASSESSOR
Updated: Apr 22
(This story was updated early Friday to confirm that Kelder resigned).
Vanessa Kelder, the assessor for the Town of Liberty who incurred the wrath of County Legislature Chair Rob Doherty and County Attorney Michael McGuire in November when they showed up unannounced at a Liberty Board of Assessment meeting to protest a Town of Liberty tax bill, is no longer employed by the town as of this week.
Kelder could not immediately be reached for comment but a source confirmed late Thursday that she resigned. She has not yet been replaced by the Town, according to another source familiar with the situation.
During the November 2 incident in Liberty, Kelder alleged that Doherty called her the "c" word as he and McGuire, along with two other County officials, demanded that the town forgive an estimated $386,000 in taxes owed by the County after Doherty engineered the transfer of The Care Center at Sunset Lake ownership to the Sunset Lake Local Development Corporation. That action meant that the Care Center was no longer tax-exempt, according to the town.
Doherty's use of the "C" word triggered a series of rebukes, including from Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. Legislator Nadia Rajsz, who previously had accused Doherty of demeaning women, including herself, had recommended that the Legislature call a vote of "no confidence" in Doherty following the Kelder incident.
At a meeting of the Legislature one week after the incident, Legislator George Conklin III refused to say that he would support a vote of no confidence even if he learned that it was a fact that Doherty used the word towards Kelder. (Legislator Ira Steingart had just asked Conklin what he would do if he learned that the word was used).
Steingart offered Doherty a chance to defend himself at the public meeting today, but Doherty said he "stands by" his prior statement.
During public comments, Town of Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo said "I will stand by my people in Liberty. " He said that the Liberty Town Clerk (Laurie Dutcher) witnessed what happened on November 2, that he called McGuire that day and that his employees "gave their witness accounts" that were reflected in a letter that DeMayo sent to the Legislature.
Legislature Vice Chair Michael Brooks said that he was also unaware what happened on November 2. He said he only heard that his County Attorney was "being aggressive."
"If any one of us says that (the "c" word) then you know what..then if you say that to anyone, and especially at a public meeting, then you should vacate your seat. But nobody mentioned to me about the "c" word. Brooks then followed Conklin's line of thinking that he had no proof that Kelder was verbally abused by Doherty.
Rajsz then told Brooks: "For you not to believe her, is highly offensive."
Meanwhile, the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency in February took an interest in the Care Center property after being approached by one of the parties to resolve the tax dispute, according to IDA Counsel Walter Garigliano.
(This is a developing story)
(Letter from Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo)
(Excerpt of letter from former Liberty Assessor Vanessa Kelder)