Editorial: In Greenport Village, it’s about accountability

02/13/2014 7:00 AM |
CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce.

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce.

About four hours into a Village Board meeting in April 2008, Greenport Mayor David Nyce slammed his gavel to silence then-trustee William Swiskey during an argument about plans for upgrading the village’s power plant.

“I love lively debate,” the mayor said at the time, “but I won’t allow unruly behavior.”

It would seem the mayor’s love for debate has since waned.

Mr. Nyce hasn’t responded to requests for comment or clarification on issues related to the village’s long-delayed power plant upgrades since Monday, Jan. 27. That was the day the public learned, with Mr. Swiskey’s help, that the village had been assessed a $108,000 penalty for missing a mandatory test of one of its generators. This was information Mr. Nyce had kept from the public, even as questions began to pour into Village Hall in December about electric bill spikes that we later learned were, in part, related to covering that $108,000. Perhaps the mayor considers our reporting of the penalty “unruly behavior.”

A Suffolk Times editor did hear from Mr. Nyce on Monday, but this exchange involved only an unhinged mayor cursing at an editor about the paper’s reporting of an email in which a trustee had mistakenly made public the résumés of two candidates for the village administrator position.

Mr. Nyce also accused the paper of not doing its homework in recent reporting, but he offered no specifics on what, exactly, we’ve gotten wrong. He hung up before the editor could ask about the power plant, which reporters have been trying to do since last month.

We suspect the mayor’s shirking of his duties as de facto village spokesman has more to do with his issues, and less to do with ours.

Consider these facts:

• Mr. Nyce also failed to return phone calls for a Jan. 28 Newsday story about power plant problems.

What did Newsday do wrong? Did they not do their homework?

• Flawed design plans have plagued the $5.8 million plant upgrade project.

The design problems mean Mr. Nyce has been losing his ongoing battle with Mr. Swiskey. The mayor’s anger with the paper, and his failure to offer details on the $108,000 penalty, may be the result of frustration and embarrassment over being perceived as wrong on a very public dispute.

• The Suffolk Times followed instructions Mr. Nyce gave Monday to call only his Village Hall phone number for comment — and to no longer contact him on his personal cellphone.

A voicemail left on his office line and subsequent email to his village address were both ignored.

Make no mistake, this newspaper is asking specific questions about the plant project, in part because we want the mayor on record — a record we can point to later if things continue to go wrong. If he doesn’t want to face these issues head-on, and run the risk of being held accountable, perhaps this job is no longer for him.