Lakewood Mayor Calls Spending Accusations ‘Absurd’

Lakewood Village Mayor Cara Birrittieri called accusations that she directed the Chautauqua Lake Alliance to conduct water tests in Lakewood waters "absurd." She demanded an apology from trustees Ellen Barnes and Randall Holcomb, and suggested the letter describing what would have been considered an "unlawful expenditure" for the alleged mayoral spending be withdrawn. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

LAKEWOOD — Whoever directed the Chautauqua Lake Association to conduct water tests off the village shores in Chautauqua Lake remains a mystery as Mayor Cara Birrittieri responded to claims that she incurred the $853.40 charge.

“We do not make accusations based on assumptions,” Birrittieri said at a Village Board meeting Monday.

The alleged spending was brought to light two weeks ago in a letter to the village clerk by trustees Ellen Barnes and Randall Holcomb after Barnes said CLA Executive Director Douglas Conroe said Birrittieri ordered the tests.

Birrittieri expressed her confusion as to why Conroe would say that. Conroe declined to comment when reached by The Post-Journal after the trustees’ meeting.

Village residents audibly scoffed when Birrittieri said “It wasn’t me.” The mayor, who had decided not to answer questions regarding the tests in the two weeks since the last Village Board meeting and elected not to comment after Monday’s meeting, was steadfast in denying she had any involvement with the CLA regarding the June 12 tests.

P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Tests were conducted over concern that herbicide treatments were done in Lakewood, which was not approved by the board. Some citizens were said to have seen a SOLitude boat off-shore from Lakewood. Test results came back negative for the herbicides applied in other areas of Chautauqua Lake in mid-June.

After a resident who attended the meeting suggested the board contact the CLA to get to the bottom of the mystery and another resident gave a first-hand account of Conroe saying Birrittieri ordered the tests, the mayor gave her report at the conclusion of the meeting.

In her report, Birrittieri called the accusations against her “absurd.” She demanded that she receive apologies from trustees Barnes and Holcomb and that the letter filed with the town clerk be withdrawn.

Barnes and Holcomb said they filed the letter two weeks ago in order to be in an appropriate timeline to raise concerns. Barnes mentioned that a misdemeanor charge could fall upon the trustees if they were complicit with Birrittieri if she was found to have directed the tests.

Earlier in the meeting, Holcomb had suggested to approve the audit of claims without the items concerning payment to the CLA for their water tests.

In agreement with Barnes, he said they should know who ordered the tests before paying the bill. Treasurer Andrea Windoft also expressed concern that she would be unethically writing the check without a signature from the mayor or a trustee. She said if the bill comes up in an audit, she would direct anyone with questions to the Village Board.

“It’s just written in state law it’s illegal to do,” Windoft said.

“The fact of the matter is nobody on this board ordered the testing,” Birrittieri said.

Despite the concerns, trustees Ted McCague and Douglas Schutte joined the mayor in voting to approve the payment to the CLA.

In other news, the board accepted the resignation of Lakewood-Busti Police Officer Timothy Riley. Police Chief John Bentley was also authorized to interview and hire prospective qualifying candidates to fill the vacancy Riley will leave behind Friday.