Rye City Council Throws City Manager Overboard
March 20, 2009

No Man is an Island… Unless He’s Cast Adrift — Rye Mayor Steven Otis and members of the Rye City Council have thrown the first of their companions in the rudderless lifeboat overboard.

City manager Paul Shew is the first but may not be the last council constituent to be jettisoned … The reason for the firing, according to the council, was Shew’s, “failure to communicate” with the council and the mayor on projects.

But many who have followed the debate over Bob Schubert’s wetlands garden, as well as the city council’s other environmental missteps (e.g. Hen Island), believe otherwise.  Shew’s highly questionable decision to sic the Westchester County Department of Mental Health on Schubert is more likely the real cause for his being deep-sixed.

Shew claims he called the psychiatric crisis center because he was, “concerned about Schubert’s mental health.”  So concerned that he did not return a single one of Mr. Schubert’s phone calls to him the week before.  Mr. Shew, who apparently thought he had the ability to determine another person’s sanity and who then misused his authority by taking formal action against Bob Schubert, will now have ample time rethink his behavior.

Other council members may want to rethink theirs as well.   Since 2006, Mr. Schubert has been standing up for his rights and asking that his wetlands issue be properly looked into.   At a Rye city council meeting this February one female member’s response to Schubert’s well-founded requests was the feckless admonition that, “you shouldn’t sully your reputation”!  Reputations are, indeed, on the line here, but Bob Schubert’s is not among them.

This is indicative not only of this particular council member’s slender grasp of the issue but also of the council’s attitude as a whole to what’s important to the community.  Are they oblivious or obstructionist?  But bigger questions loom.

Can Shew have acted alone in this instance?  Is it possible that any city manager anywhere would be allowed to make such a drastic unilateral decision?  On the Schubert issue and many others, what, if any, support or encouragement did Shew get from the mayor, the city attorney, other council members?

To borrow from John Donne: No man (or city manager) is an island entire of itself. As city manager, Shew must have worked in concert with the Mayor, Rye city council, and Rye city attorney to conduct the city’s business.  In time, some of them may learn — as Mr. Shew has — what it’s like to be cast away …


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