The Politics Of Pornography Town Divides As Local Group Calls For Rochester Board’s Resignation Among Allegations Of Harassment
By Stefan Spezio
By Stefan Spezio
Though the meeting lasted only twenty minutes, the gathering at the Town of Rochester’s board meeting was an event featuring a packed house, town citizens forced to remain outside of the building, blaring horns, flashing lights, shouting, threats, tears and a number of New York State Police.
The reason for all of this was due to an incident that occurred on January 24 when Manuela Mihailescu, a 57-year old resident of the town, attended a board meeting for an interview to decide whether or not she would be allowed on the municipality’s Historic Preservation Committee.
Husband and wife at the center of controversy,Jon Dogar-Marinesco and Manuela Mihailescu.
As has been reported in other area publications and as Ms. Mihailescu has repeatedly alleged, she was questioned if she was aware that an internet search using her name yielded pornographic websites among the results. She was then questioned whether she had any association with these websites. Mihailescu responded that she had no connection with the websites and asked to see the printed pages that the town board had printed out. What she saw on those pages, Mihailescu claims, was a series of graphic images. Surprised and distraught at the line of questioning, Mihailescu left the meeting, got into her car and promptly hit another car in the town’s parking lot.
Rochester’s town board, citing that the meeting took place in executive session, will not speak about the interview other than to confirm that it took place.
* * * Within days 2,000 fliers were sent out by a local citizen’s group called Rochester Republicans asking for a large contingent of supporters to come to the town’s board meeting held last Thursday, February 1 and demand the board’s resignation (in particular Supervisor Pam Duke, and Councilpersons Alex Miller, Francis Gray, Tony Spano). The group, which has been very critical of the current town board, felt that the events of January 24 were politically motivated due to the fact that Mihailescu’s husband, Jon Dogar-Marinesco, is the administrator for its website (see for yourself at www.rochesterrepublicans.com).
On the evening of the board meeting concerned Rochester residents started arriving just before 6pm for the 7pm meeting for fear that the number of people attending the meeting would force a “first-come, first-serve” chance at actually getting into the town’s small meeting room.
Their concerns were justified as two New York State Troopers arrived on the scene at the request of the town board to assist with crowd control. When the doors opened, residents who had been standing on line for over an hour in the cold rushed into the 78-person capacity meeting room. The room, with seating for thirty-six, was filled to the point that a crowd of two or three deep surrounded the seating area on three sides. Residents who came late to the meeting were forced to remain outside by order of the police at the meeting. If anyone who was in the room went outside he or she was not allowed back in. Throughout most of the meeting the citizens that were left outside sounded their car horns and flashed their headlights into the building in protest.v As the meeting began, there were shouts by the audience that the meeting was being held illegally as the town board was not in compliance with occupancy standards. There were also loud suggestions that the board should adjourn the meeting to the nearby firehouse to accommodate the mass of people now literally left out in the cold. Councilperson Ron Santosky made a motion to do just that but could find no one to second it. In fact, there is precedent for the town to move the meeting on occasions with larger than normal attendance.
After some other town business, the issue of Ms. Mihailescu was broached. At that point, the town’s attorney, Rod Futerfas, read a statement to the effect that the Rochester town board would be legally unable to respond to any accusations that would be made by the audience due to the fact that the interview occurred during an executive session. Futerfas then asked Mihailescu if she would sign a release at that time, waiving the confidentiality agreement that an executive session implies. Ms. Mihailescu responded by saying that she would not sign anything without advice of counsel and proceeded to read a statement where she argued that because she had spoken to a number of local news agencies that she had already waived confidentiality. The town’s counsel disagreed and said that there could be no comments from the audience about this subject during the public comment session: “This board is not a punching bag. If you want to take shots at something I would suggest taking up a different sport.”
At that point, Councilman Alex Miller told the audience that, “Public comment is a privilege at these meetings, not a right.”
In fact one resident, Imre Beke, the chairperson of the town’s Conservative Party, did speak and chastised the board and the town attorney saying, “You sir answer to us! We will have our say whether you like it or not!”
Mr. Beke’s outburst drew a loud round of applause from the group as well as others that responded, “You don’t speak for me, Beke!”
And with that, the board made a motion to close the meeting and reconvene for a special meeting on Thursday, February 8, 2007.
As the audience began to move out of the meeting area they began to relay the evening’s events to the dozens of people who had been left outside. At this point, three more State Troopers had arrived (bringing the number to five) to control the crowd. Speaking with a number of residents, their responses were either shame or anger.
Carl Chipman, president of the Rochester Republicans, was angered when Town Supervisor Pam Duke did not recognize him. To a supporter he commented, “Who am I? Who am I? I am the person that’s going to take her damn job!”
Imre Beke said, “The fact of the matter is that the town board has been doing this for a year. They stifle criticism instead of facing it. There is no excuse for this. It is very unprofessional and I am ashamed. You might as well have Pinochet running things!”
Rochester resident Tommy Bober said that he has noticed a change in the town over the last few years, saying that, “There have been some rumblings before but this is my first time being excluded from a meeting. It [the town] has gone down hill.”
Mark Rubertone, a ten year resident of the town, said he, “moved up here from New York City to get away from all of this. I guess it followed me.
One female town resident described Town Supervisor Pam Duke and her board as, “a control freak and they are all her flunkies.”
As for Ms. Mihailescu, she was in tears after the meeting disbanded and said that the evening’s events reminded her, a Romanian immigrant, of her “totalitarian experience. This was very well orchestrated and all it does is throw dirt on my name.” Mihailescu went on to say that she would be seeking legal counsel before making any decisions.