Hoping to both politically and metaphorically eliminate a voice unpopular with some fellow members, Southtown Council Member Aaron Hamburger led the verbal charge at a recent public session.
"I propose that we ask the Constitution and By-Laws Committee to study the situation and resolve it by the March meeting. If the Committee determines that is not legal for Frank to be Secretary and the CC approves, then Frank must resign. We don't have to wait for two meetings to remove a CC member because in the case, the CC made a mistake and Frank can't qualify as Secretary and an Officer of RIRA," he said, according to a transcript. (CC = Common Council.)
A dispute stumbled in when Farance, a Council Member for decades and one-time President, now elected as an alternate from Island House, volunteered to take on responsibilities of Secretary, a job made more tedious for having to listen to the same hot air blown twice. There were no other takers.
You might assume that a group that teeters on irrelevance and lacks diversity and can't summon enough candidates to stage competitive elections would be happy or, at least, relieved to find a volunteer willing to step in. With this Common Council, you would be wrong.
"Again," protested the proposed to be snuffed Common Council Secretary, "RIRA shifts its interpretation of our Constitution and By-Laws, based upon the circumstances at hand, such as when issues arise concerning 'Frank Farance.'
"I had hoped this new RIRA Common Council would be better, and with less friction. However, it is not," he laments.
Earlier, Farance told The Daily, "This is what Adib (Mansour) is doing to me," suggesting the expulsion move is personal, part of a broader exercise at exclusion.
Evidence supports Farance's claim, although Mansour, responsible for the tacky SURVEY that littered the community for much of last year, along with other Common Council Members, does not respond to requests for comment from The Daily, as mandated by the group's former Vice President Sherie Helstien, and adhered to by current President Jeff Escobar.
As an example, when Farance stepped in to keep the Senior Center open for heat relief last summer, during a bumpy transition to Carter Burden's management, Mansour falsely claimed Common Council credit for the effort in publicly posted flyers, giving no acknowledgment to Farance.
Recently, acting on behalf of Common Council elections, Mansour left Farance's name off posters he produced for Island House candidates (see above), an act that drew ethics charges that went nowhere.
In a related controversy, Mansour has been pitted against Farance again in support of the Roosevelt Island Community Center for Development (RICCD) in the contest for management of the Youth Center. Farance is aligned with the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, which Mansour maligned with poorly supported accusations and innuendos in a public letter to City Council Member Ben Kallos.
The dispute over Farance's participation as Secretary to the Common Council amounts to splitting hairs. President Escobar could easily resolve the issue peacefully but has, so far, sided with the executioners, choosing to devalue resident enthusiasm, a move which would deprive the Council of another community voice and discourage others.
Forceful dissent is unwelcome at Escobar's table.
To be frank, excuse the pun, Farance is a gadfly. Gadflies, by nature, irritate, but their challenges to the status quo are important for the health of organizations. That's why whistleblowers in government are protected. We already have a complete inventory of conformists. Gadflies speak up to power, and power does not naturally like it.
Taking it a step farther, as he often does, Farance sometimes goes over the top, far over the top, in drawing conclusions about the actions of individuals, too frequently implying criminal behavior with insufficient evidence and demanding investigations. Like what you hear or not, that's free speech, and denying someone a voice because you don't like what's being said isn't generally assumed to be constructive.
While an opportunity remains to settle the dispute amicably, recent Common Council behavior suggests that positive steps will not be taken, especially with Escobar as leader and supported by Mansour, Joyce Short and Hamburger.