East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. took the unusual step on Monday of issuing a statement describing recent behavior by the chairman of the Village Zoning Board of Appeals, Andrew Goldstein, as having been “totally inappropriate” and saying that “similar conduct in the future will not be tolerated.”
The mayor’s statement also said that Mr. Goldstein had apologized and would remain in his current position.
The mayor did not go into specifics, but was clearly referring to a September 14 meeting of the ZBA at which David Eagan, an attorney representing the Maidstone Club, and Mr. Goldstein had a prolonged exchange about the ZBA’s unanimous decision to require a full environmental study for the golf club’s proposal to overhaul and expand its irrigation system.
Throughout a good portion of the meeting’s first 49 minutes, Mr. Eagan wanted to make points for the record, and Mr. Goldstein wanted him to submit them in writing. The two discussed the possibility of Mr. Eagan’s clients bringing a suit against the village, and board members agreed to amend requiring the environmental impact statement to require a scoping session at which the board outlines the issues it wants the environmental study to address. Mr. Eagan called the move “highly unusual,” and Mr. Goldstein countered that the club’s proposal was a “highly unusual application.” Mr. Eagan replied that it was the “regular business of this board.”
Larry Hillel, another ZBA member, said, “Mr. Eagan, do you live in East Hampton?”
Mr. Eagan replied that he had lived in Wainscott for 30 years. Mr. Hillel then asked him if he cared about East Hampton.
As Mr. Eagan told Mr. Hillel that his question was personal and “really offensive,” Mr. Goldstein cut Mr. Eagan off, saying, “Listen, enough, enough, enough, enough, enough,” and Mr. Eagan persisted, saying he cared greatly about East Hampton.
Mr. Goldstein told Mr. Eagan to sit down and repeatedly told the village’s deputy clerk, Pamela Bennett, to “turn off the tape,” meaning her recording of the meeting for minutes.
“No,” she replied. “No.”
“Sit down, Mr. Eagan, or I’m going to call a security officer,” Mr. Goldstein said to boos from the audience. “Sit down Mr. Eagan, sit down Mr. Eagan. ...”
“You’re belittling your own process,” Mr. Eagan told him.
“No, I’m not belittling my own process,” Mr. Goldstein said. “The board has indicated that we would like to have a scoping session, for your client’s benefit also and so we’ll do it. So what do we have to do to amend the application ... the resolution?”
Someone asked if the recorder had been turned back on and Ms. Bennett responded that it had never been turned off.
Mr. Goldstein paused. “Oh God. I apologize for that,” he told the audience, as the board returned to the business of its meeting.
“The Board of Trustees had a frank discussion with Andrew Goldstein in his capacity as chairman of our Zoning Board of Appeals,” the mayor said in his press release, adding that Mr. Goldstein’s conduct had been “totally inappropriate and not in keeping with the high standard of professionalism the Board of Trustees expects from a surrogate representative body of village government.”
“Mr. Goldstein acknowledged his error in conduct and apologized to the Board of Trustees as he did before the public at the meeting in question,” the mayor’s statement said. “The BOT accepted Mr. Goldstein’s apology in good faith with the caveat that it is understood similar conduct in the future will not be tolerated.”
The mayor’s statement concluded: “Mr. Goldstein will continue in his position as chairman of our Zoning Board of Appeals.”
Mayor Rickenbach and Mr. Goldstein could not be reached for comment this week.
“I have no comment on Mr. Goldstein’s conduct or the village’s response,” Mr. Eagan said in an emailed response on Monday. “I do, however, feel that it is inaccurate to describe my appearance before the board on behalf of our client as including a ‘heated exchange,’ “ he said, referring to an earlier characterization.
“At no time was my behavior inappropriate. Anyone who was present or viewed the tape will see that I represented our client in a professional manner and was there to advance their interests and to defend their legal rights. Nothing that happened at the meeting will change my approach or that of my colleagues,” Mr. Eagan said in the email.