OGDENSBURG The upcoming mayoral and city council election led to a shake-up Wednesday on the Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce, with one board member resigning and two others taking leaves of absence because they are candidates.
Mayor William D. Nelson is resigning effective today. He has been a chamber board member for the last 18 months and off and on for the last 10 years.
Chamber President Jack F. McGrath, who is challenging the three-term Republican incumbent as an independent candidate, has taken a leave of absence until after the Nov. 8 elections, as has board member and city council candidate William D. Hosmer.
The chambers bylaws state that the organization shall be non-partisan, non-sectarian and shall not engage directly or indirectly in any activities of a political nature.
Mr. McGrath intended to use Wednesdays chamber board meeting to sound out the other directors on whether his chamber duties would clash with his mayoral candidacy. He said a week ago that he thought doing both would be no problem.
The mayor had his one-page resignation letter all set.
It is vital to that the Chamber of Commerce remain a non-political entity to ensure the integrity of the organization, Mr. Nelson said.
He said if he did not step down, the chamber would not go unscathed by accusations of political involvement during the election season.
The board will suffer and the chamber will suffer, he said.
Board members agreed.
I dont think its going to be beneficial, said Wayne F. Izzo. It will hurt.
You cant separate yourself, said Carrie A. Demers.
Others agreed that perception is too often enough to raise suspicion of conflicts of interest.
I think its a reality, said Kenneth J. Gardner.
Having heard his fellow board members thumbs-down, Mr. Hosmer said he felt he had no choice.
Mr. McGrath, who will be replaced on an interim basis by chamber secretary Lori A. Smithers, accepted board members opinions.
I dont want to hurt anything that weve built, he said.
The chamber receives funding from the city annually; this year it received $15,000.