The recent 5-1 New Berlin aldermanic vote to declare Ald. Poshephy’s seat vacant and direct the City Clerk to advertise the vacancy was heartless and disrespectful of District #5 voters.
Joe Poshepny was elected alderman by the people of the city’s 5th District. I live in District 5. Poshepny had been very ill during the past four months and missed meetings. Most folks feel compassion for the ill or injured and consider serious illness/injury a valid excuse for meeting or work absences. District 5 residents were willing to cut Ald. Poshephy some slack. In fact, Mayor Chiovatero reported that he “received no emails, no phone calls and nobody came to any meetings saying they were not represented.”
Poshepny reported that his health had improved and he wished to continue serving his aldermanic term until it expires in April. But Ald. Hopkins, Wysocki, Seidl, Harenda and Ament evidently lack empathy and do not care what Poshepny or the other 5th District residents want. They seized the opportunity to oust an aldermanic colleague who had frequently disagreed with them. Don’t be surprised if this ruthless bunch appoints a crony or someone who had previously run for the position but been rejected by the voters. In any case, the alderman won't be chosen by us District 5 voters. He/she will be chosen for us by a handful of men who do not live in the district. In the meantime, District 5 has no aldermanic representation.
The City Attorney rendered an opinion on September 14 that Ald. Poshepny’s resignation became effective when it was received, despite his letter rescinding the resignation. Poshepny’s presence at the September 22 Committee of the Whole Meeting clearly upset Ald. Ament. Ament remarked that he had not expected Poshepny to be wheeled in there. Ament called it highly irregular. Why? Because it is harder to kick a man who is down when he is sitting in front of you in a wheelchair? Of course, Poshepny had every right to be there! It was a public meeting. And advertising the aldermanic vacancy was an item on the meeting agenda.
When questioned by the mayor at the meeting, Poshepny explained that he had been gravely ill, had almost met his Maker 3 times, spent more time in the hospital during the past few months than he had his entire life, and his wife had decided she didn’t want to care for him. Needless to say, it had all been overwhelming and he had relied on his daughter, who had power of attorney. Poshepny asserted that the letter of resignation had been written by his daughter and mailed by her. Calling the resignation letter a mistake, Poshepny said he could not recall signing it and had not intended to resign.
The City Attorney suggested that the aldermen give Poshepny’s explanation careful thought. If the aldermen accepted Poshepny’s explanation and concluded it was not a valid resignation, then no vacancy existed.
Surely, it was not inconceivable that the resignation letter had been written by Poshepny’s daughter when he was quite sick and had impaired decision-making capacity? The mayor pointed out that the resignation letter had been postmarked from Maryland, where the daughter resides.
I know from my experience as a registered nurse that it is not unusual for senior citizens to become disoriented when acutely ill, especially when they were in unfamiliar settings, such as hospitals. Certain medications may cause or contribute to confusion, too. Medical professionals cannot ethically or lawfully obtain consents for surgery or invasive medical procedures from confused patients. Yet five of our aldermen voted to accept a resignation letter as valid from a senior citizen who told them he had been very ill and incapacitated—and had no memory of having signed it?
It will take time to interview and select a new alderman. The City budget decision-making process is already underway. It is unlikely that a newly appointed alderman will have full information concerning it. Some government entities, such as the NB School Board decided not to fill a position when less than 9 months remain until the next election. The person appointed by the City Council would only serve about 5 months. State Rep Mark Gundrum was away for many months when deployed to Iraq. He missed meetings and votes, but no one suggested he should be replaced or ousted.
Is the real reason those New Berlin aldermen want to appoint someone is so that person will have an edge over opponents in the next election? Isn’t this about control—five aldermen seeking to increase their majority on the Council to 6?