Sidonio again refuses to resign as Murray town supervisor after majority of board votes for him to go

Photos by Tom Rivers: Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio apologized his comments in private conversations with a local resident but won’t be resigning. Councilman Paul Hendel said Sidonio’s behavior sets a bad example for the community. “Leaders set standards,” Hendel said.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 May 2022 at 8:57 am

MURRAY – The majority of the Town Board voted on Monday for Joe Sidonio to resign as town supervisor, saying he has used racial slurs and demeaning language about women and town employees in recordings of phone conversations with a local resident.

Sidonio refused to resign on Monday, the second straight Town Board meeting where board members Paul Hendel, Randy Bower and Lloyd Christ voted for Sidonio to resign as town supervisor.

Mike Mele, a councilman and deputy town supervisor, abstained because he said he would become town supervisor if Sidonio resigns.

Sidonio apologized again for “unsavory language” but said he didn’t do anything illegal in what he thought were private conversations with a local resident. He said the effort to oust him from the board is “politics.”

Several residents spoke at Monday’s meeting, with some siding with Sidonio and others blaming the three board members for drawing negative attention on the town when they likely say things privately they wouldn’t want broadcast to the community.

Betty Passarell, mother of Town Clerk Cindy Oliver and former assessor Louise Passarell, called Sidonio “a disgusting human being” for his comments about her daughters.

She also said he was wrong to share discussions in executive session with the resident who was taping the phone conversations.

Louise Passarell said the taped conversations show “the real Joe” who body shames, harasses and bullies many of the town employees.

“It’s disgraceful and embarrassing to have him as a leader,” she said. “This isn’t one conversation. It’s multiple conversations over many months.”

Jeff Lipson said all of the board members, if fully scrutinized, have done embarrassing things.

Councilman Bower, a retired Orleans County sheriff, said Sidonio’s use of the N-word and other comments show him to be a racist who should not be in public office.

“I will never support a racist,” Bower said during Monday’s board meeting.

“I’m not a racist,” Sidonio responded.

Bower said if the public could hear Sidonio’s demeaner and his words in the conversations there wouldn’t be support for him.

Jeff Lipson stood up and said all of the board members have transgressions and shouldn’t single out Sidonio.

“I know things about all of you,” he said.

Ron Vendetti, the retired town code enforcement officer, said all five members of the board should resign.

“He may have said stupid things but none of you will would work with him,” Vendetti said during the public comment part of the meeting. “Just do your jobs.”

He faulted the board for walking out of last month’s meeting before finishing town business.

“The bottom line is stop fighting and being a bunch of babies,” Vendetti said.

He said he is angry his name was included in an official resolution from last month, calling for Sidonio’s resignation.

Vendetti said he shouldn’t be “dragged through the mud,” especially now that he is retired and no longer working for the town.

He told Councilman Hendel he shows “amazing arrogance.” Hendel introduced the resolution last month and on Monday calling for Sidonio’s resignation.

Hendel during Monday’s meeting started the discussion about Sidonio by saying the Marine Corps recently relieved a two-star general who used the N-word.

Hendel said Murray should follow the Marine Corps example of taking “quick and powerful actions” and showing no tolerance for racial slurs.

Hendel said the mass shooting in Buffalo on Saturday, where 10 people were killed in a racially motivated attack, makes him more convinced there can’t be any tolerance for racial slurs.

“This is nothing about politics,” Hendel said. “This is about leadership. Leaders set standards. There is no place in the Town of Murray or Orleans County for the behavior of our current leader.”

Amy Machamer, Sidonio’s wife, spoke during the meeting and said her husband is a person who goes out of his way to help all residents, regardless of their background and circumstances.

She said the board has targeted her business, Hurd Orchards. One of the board members came to her farm the day before Easter and said she would have protestors at the business if Sidonio didn’t resign. If he stepped down, the board member told Machamer “it all goes away” without being made public, Machamer said.

One resident Anthony Peone, urged the board, if it is serious about having Sidonio resign, to start a petition to have him removed from office. But Peone said he doubts the board is serious about the issue and is instead grandstanding.

Town Clerk Cindy Oliver said she has tried to be fair with Sidonio.

“We all say bad things,” she said. “But to hear what he called me is disgusting. I’m not even comfortable being here.”