COLONIE — In an uncharacteristically contentious exchange, the Town Board appointed Brian Austin on Thursday, March 25, to fill a vacancy created with the resignation of David Green, who resigned his seat and was sworn in as a town justice.
The chain of events began earlier this month when Peter Crummey announced he was giving up the robes to run for supervisor. Green, who was elected in 2013 as a Republican but changed his enrollment to Democrat after his re-election bid four years later, was appointed to take Crummey’s seat. The effective date was initially set for the middle of next month, but the schedule was accelerated to avoid a backlog of cases at one of the state’s busiest courts and he will don the robes for the first time on Monday, March 29.
The board, by a 4-2 party line vote, appointed Democrat Austin to fill Green’s spot until the end of the year. It is not clear if Austin will be the party’s pick to run for a full four-year term in November.
Austin ran for the board in 2017 and placed fourth in a race for three seats, 649 behind fellow Democrat Linda Murphy. He ran again two years later and finished fifth in the race for three different seats.
Town Board member Fred Field said the appointment should have gone to fellow Republican Chris Carey, who came in fourth in 2019. During his re-election bid, Carey finished out of the three-seat running by about 580 votes, and did so ran without the Conservative Party line, which generated nearly 1,200 votes for two other Republican candidates.
“Out of six candidates he [Austin] came in last in the election. I am glad he [Carey] sent that comment in because he was a vote getter,” said Field. “This is a concern, because the message is you can run for office and not worry about winning and still get appointed. I think it is ridiculous.”
“The next person who came in with the most votes should be the person who takes the seat. It should be up to the residents,” echoed Town Board member Danielle Futia, a Republican. “It is not about the person, it is about who the residents voted for and how they voted.”
Democrats backed up Mahan’s recommendation and their vote.
“I ran with Brian for two campaign cycles and I know how hard he works and I also know him as my band teacher back in the day,” said Town Board member Melissa Jeffers, a Democrat. “I don’t think election results reflect someone’s work ethic or how they can contribute to the community.”
Supervisor Paula Mahan said she enjoyed working with Carey — which may have been at the root of the angst of some Republicans and their allies in the Conservative Party.
“He [Carey] was treated terribly by his own party who did not back him and if you look at the numbers, for someone with one line, they are high,” she said. “Anyone who has been in this a while knows how these other parties operate. Probably, if things were fair, he would be sitting up here on this board. Thank you Chris for all you did and thanks for bringing your name up.”
Carey sent a statement which was read into the record.
“It is disappointing to me that I was not asked for consideration to fill the current vacancy on the Town Board. I don’t have to speak to my resume or my experience because all know that,” he said in the statement read by Town Clerk Julie Gansle. “I think it would have made more sense to put an experienced past board member in the vacancy and put party affiliation aside and do what would be in the best interest of the town and its residents.”
Mahan said she has also known Austin for years and touted his resume. She was adamant about the fact he is not appointed as a candidate, but only to fill the seat until the end of this year. Since petitions are about done, the Democrats will need to utilize the Committee to Fill Vacancies to replace Green’s candidacy.
“I am recommending him this to the board. The board majority is appointing him. This is to fill the position to the end of the year,” Mahan said. “Brian has a great deal of experience as well. He was on the Zoning Board and Planning Board and has been engaged in numerous community activities and the schools — he has worked for North Colonie schools for 30 years — and he will do a fine job between now and the end of the year.”