By Robin Jovanovich
When we learned, just before press time, that Councilwoman Pam Tarlow was stepping down from her position because she was moving out of Rye, we had a long goodbye conversation about public service and private life.
She was sad, she explained, not to be able to finish out her term, and disappointed not to be able to say goodbye to the community in a public forum.
Last week, after telling members of the Council and City staff that she was moving July 31, Tarlow had several conversations with Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson. Two days before the July 24 Council meeting, Tarlow discovered her access to Council email had been terminated. Tarlow was planning to attend what would have been her last official meeting but was informed by Wilson that if did so she would “be facing possible legal action. The message the Mayor had City staff deliver to me was: ‘That as long as I did not attend, they wouldn’t do anything to me.’”
What reason could the City have had for taking legal action against Tarlow, whose only “crime” while in office was to speak her mind?
What did and didn’t happen at the Council meeting gives one pause. Resident Suki van Dijk came to the podium to read a letter from Tarlow and asked that it be entered into the record. When she asked Mayor Cohn if he had threatened Tarlow with legal action if she attempted to come to the meeting, he turned to Wilson and said, “Kristen, were any threats issued?” Wilson responded, “I don’t think this is appropriate for public discussion. But I certainly did not threaten another Councilmember.” Mayor Cohn’s then said: “Understood, no threats were authorized,” and he was ready to move on.
When van Dijk asked to make a further comment, the Mayor told her that her three minutes were up (despite the fact that they were not).
In our long experience covering the City Council, no Council has ever acted in such an uncharitable, uncivil manner. If a Councilmember steps down — for any reason — the rest of the Council thanks them for their service and wishes them well, and the individual is then given the opportunity to speak. We don’t bar the door.
Here is what Pam Tarlow wanted, but was not given the chance, to say at the July 24 Council meeting:
“Covid-19 has changed so much for me and my family. After living in and loving Rye for 13 years, it had become abundantly clear that a change in lifestyle was necessary. Our family needed more space and my husband, Mike, and I really thought about how and where we wanted to live.
We were very lucky to find a house that we love in the Silver Lake area of White Plains. Our last day in Rye will be July 31, and I therefore need to resign my position on the City Council tonight.
I will miss Rye and all of you for the good that we have worked to achieve together.
Giving back to Rye was very important to me. Rye made my family feel safe. It educated my children, Jordan and Hannah, and introduced my husband and me to friends that will be in our hearts forever.
The saddest thing about this move is stepping down from the City Council. I believed that I offered another viewpoint and that that was important. I believed in our community, and I always tried to be respectful, logical, and compassionate in my approach.
This Council will appoint my replacement, and I wouldn’t be me without reminding you what good public servant leadership is about as you monitor the next choice:
• Selection of leaders should always be based on the next generation, not the next election.
• Governing is not managing, and we all should understand the Council/Manager form of government and honor the role of professionals to do their job without political gamesmanship.
•We should protect the integrity of process and transparency as it is the only path to maintaining trust in Government.
•Encourage courteous discourse. Don’t make someone the enemy because they disagree.
•Government is not about you or me; it is about us.”