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Oct 14, 2015 12:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Library Board Reschedules Meeting With Almost No Notice

Oct 15, 2015 10:15 AM

Wednesday morning’s highly anticipated Westhampton Free Library board meeting, at which board members were expected to share their thoughts about the feasibility of switching from an appointed to an elected board, was pushed back by two weeks for undisclosed reasons.

Late Tuesday night—and about 12 hours before the 9:30 a.m. meeting was supposed to begin—library officials announced that Wednesday morning’s meeting was being pushed back to Friday, October 30, to accommodate Suffolk Cooperative Library System Director Kevin Verbesey, who has been invited to discuss the subject. Originally, the board had intended to push back Wednesday’s meeting to Friday, October 23, but moved it back another week to accommodate Mr. Verbesey’s schedule, according to Westhampton Free Library Director Danielle Waskiewicz.

Still, as of Thursday morning, it still remained unclear why the library board, at the direction of Westhampton Free Library Board President Joan Levan, had decided to postpone Wednesday morning’s meeting. She has not responded to requests seeking an explanation, and Ms. Waskiewicz has stated that she only learned about the cancellation herself late Tuesday night when she received an email from Ms. Levan, who has been under extreme scrutiny in recent weeks from the public, primarily prompted by her decision to terminate a employee.

Ms. Levan has been at the center of public demands calling for her resignation and the changing of the board from an appointed to an elected one. Currently, she hand-selects those who serve on the board, according to critics.

On Wednesday morning, several people, including former library employee Sabina Trager of Westhampton Beach who was fired earlier this year by Ms. Levan for allegedly breaching library policy, said they were shocked to learn that the meeting was canceled. Both Ms. Trager, and others who had gathered for the meeting, said no one told them it had been postponed.

“It’s not very nice to the public,” Ms. Trager said, referring to the library board’s 11th-hour decision to reschedule the meeting. “It’s hard enough to rally people to come on a weekday,” she continued, adding that she had circulated fliers inviting members of the public to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Jean Schweibish of Mattituck, who works in Westhampton Beach, was one of those who learned about the cancellation when she showed up at the library. She said her biggest issue is with the time of the monthly board meetings, which typically start at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays.

Hermon Bishop, a former attorney for Westhampton Beach Village, also showed up and told Ms. Waskiewicz that the library board is violating open meeting laws by holding the meetings when most of the public cannot attend. Ms. Waskiewicz, who said she does not think the board is violating the law, advised him to discuss his position with Mr. Verbesey.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee for Open Government, said courts have ruled in the past that it is unreasonable for school boards to hold their meetings too early in the morning, such as 7 a.m. At the same time, he added that a 9:30 a.m. start time would be considered by many to be “regular business hours.”

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The library board meetings should be at 7 p.m. just like the meetings of the Westhampton Beach Trustees. They should also be videotaped like the WHB meetings. The library has $4.1 million in cash/savings and yearly expenses of only
$2.58 million so it could well afford it. Canceling the Oct. 14 meeting at the last minute hurts the image of libraries, something that Mr. Verbesey should be concerned with. Maybe he is.
By JackO'Dwyer (16), New York on Oct 14, 15 6:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
You have a lot to say about this and the village proper -- maybe you should run for one of the boards and change things from within.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 14, 15 11:50 PM
was the meeting to be held in Joan Levan's kitchen? WHB looks worse every day.
By Hambone (514), New York on Oct 14, 15 8:48 PM