Offensive email, then town seeks outside help


ANCRAM—Emails never die.

A disturbing email received by a Town Board member which was brought up at the January Town Board meeting, came up again at the February 18 board meeting and will likely come up again.

Moments before the January 21 meeting, the email popped up during an email conversation between Councilperson Bonnie Hundt and Town Clerk Monica Cleveland about the minutes of a prior meeting. It was part of an email chain which included all Town Board members and Town Highway Superintendent James Miller.

Ms. Hundt recounted the incident at the January meeting and again in a phone call with The Columbia Paper this week. At some point during that exchange about the minutes of a prior meeting, a message popped up from Mr. Miller which said, “Need rid of that bitch.”

Since Ms. Hundt was the only person actively communicating with the Town Clerk at the time, she said she assumed the comment was meant for her. Ms. Hundt said she was stunned and upset by the comment and found it “inappropriate.”

When Councilperson Hundt confronted Mr. Miller about the email comment at the January Zoom meeting, he apologized for it. At the time, he said he was in the midst of a separate personal email conversation with a family member and intended to send the comment in response to that email, but inadvertently sent the comment on the Town Board email chain. He said he wasn’t wearing his glasses at the time.

Ms. Hundt was skeptical and pressed Mr. Miller about whether she was indeed the intended target of the email. Mr. Miller said that the comment was not meant for Ms. Hundt nor anyone on the Town Board.

‘That’s the thing about emails, once you send them, they are out there.’

Councilperson Bonnie Hundt

Town of Ancram

During the February meeting, Councilperson Madeleine Israel brought up the offending email again, saying she was upset by the highway superintendent’s comment and the more she looked at it, the more she believed it was intended for Councilperson Hundt.

Mr. Miller said he had apologized for the comment. He explained that he had just “woke up from a nap” and thought he was addressing a family member who was having personal problems.

Ms. Israel asked Mr. Miller to find that personal email exchange he was having with his family member and send it to her so she could see it. She said it would “really clear up the whole thing.”

Mr. Miller said he would look, but expressed some doubt about whether he would be able to find it, saying it was “water under the bridge.”

Ms. Hundt called the email comment “unfortunate,” noting, “that’s the thing about emails, once you send them, they are out there.”

Later in the meeting, Conservation Advisory Board member Kim Tripp said she was “shocked and appalled” by Mr. Miller’s “language.” She said it is important that the town establish and maintain a degree of professionalism despite increasing pressure.

In what turned out to be opportune timing, Supervisor Art Bassin brought up the subject of Communications Sensitivity Training during his report. He said the town had arranged this training program for members of the Planning Board last fall following an alleged harassment complaint.

Mr. Bassin said the board had discussed the possibility of conducting the same program early this year for all board, committee and council members and he suggested the board move forward with it.

Councilperson Hundt agreed that it “would be money well spent.”

Councilperson Hugh Clark said it would be “worthwhile.” And Councilperson David Boice said, it is “definitely something we need to do because we have issues with our communication.”

The board voted unanimously to authorize Mr. Bassin to schedule the training with Jami Ehring, director of Training and Employee Development at Lee & Mason.

Mr. Bassin told The Columbia Paper by phone that the cost varies according to the number of people attending.

In other business, the board:

* Heard from Councilperson Boice that the building inspector/code enforcement officer should see that a placard indicating what a building is made of is displayed on every residential building according to New York Code, Rules and Regulations put in place in January 2015. Mr. Boice said firefighters are getting hurt because they do not know what kind of construction some buildings are made of before fighting fires in them

* Heard a 2020 annual report from Suzan Flamm, chair of the town’s Climate Smart Committee Task Force. The CSCTF saw to the conversion of Ancram’s 31 streetlights to warm-toned (3,000 K), dark-sky compliant LEDs, saving about 16,000 kWh every year. The complete report is available on the Town’s website at:

To contact Diane Valden email

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