The Equestrian Forum of Wellington works to enhance Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve in order to create economic opportunities for Wellington. We believe the establishment and sustainment of the Equestrian Preserve is dependent on world-class equestrian venues.
Since Wellington incorporated in 1995, the village and equestrian interests shared the same vision of enhancing the equestrian industry and making venues and events more accessible and attractive to all of Wellington. Over the past few years, that was being achieved while at the same time the character of the preserve was being protected.
The Van Kampen covered arena and derby venue at Equestrian Village was approved by the previous Wellington Village Council and would have offered year-round residents a covered arena, guaranteed access by local charities, a riding academy for local children, along with other amenities. However, under the banner of protecting the Equestrian Preserve, the current council has tried to dismantle the Van Kampen venue.
The unseemly amount of money that was spent to elect Mayor Bob Margolis and councilmen Matt Willhite and John Greene has been well discussed and documented. And unfortunately, as Councilman Howard Coates stated, this council majority has used a “scorched earth” approach for political payback.
The council majority has implemented an agenda to prevent our equestrian industry from growing. They have revoked approvals in an effort to impose unworkable conditions on the Van Kampen venue.
The actions of this council have brought uncertainty about Wellington in the international equestrian community. This, in turn, will create uncertainty in our local economy. We almost lost the millions of dollars that this year’s Global Dressage Festival will bring to area businesses.
With the council allowing this year’s festival to occur at the last hour and no guarantee next year’s festival will occur, people will decide to compete and spend their money elsewhere.
Greatly accelerating the distrust of the council majority are the recent revelations of large monetary gifts being solicited by Mayor Bob Margolis and Councilman John Greene from persons who have material interests in their votes. Wealthy interests have given Margolis and Greene thousands of dollars for legal defense funds, vacations in the Hamptons and for other personal benefits.
Further, Councilman Greene adopted an improper position with respect to his personal interests in votes affecting the Global Dressage Festival. Greene was living at the home of Neil Hirsch, an adamant opponent of the facility, during the time the Van Kampen project was being reviewed by the village, despite a contrary opinion from the Ethics Commission.
Several of the payments and contributions made to Margolis and Greene were within days of key votes.
The actions of Margolis and Greene are hypocritical when viewed in the context of their election campaigns. They ran on platforms that “the process” in village government had the appearance of favoritism.
It is time to adopt legislation to ensure transparency in Wellington. Residents have the right to know where our council members live, who they work for, and from whom they receive gifts.
We propose that the village adopt immediately an ordinance that requires the following information about council members to be maintained on the village’s web site; any changes or updates shall be reported by the council members to the village clerk within 48 hours, with progressive punishment for violations by council members:
1) Requests for Ethics Commission opinions by council members and the outcomes.
2) Address of residence.
3) Employers and other sources of income greater than $1,000.
4) Any gift from a lobbyist or a person who has matters pending before the village.
5) Any gifts, including gifts to immediate family members, over $100 (not including gifts from family members).
Equestrian Forum of Wellington