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May 16, 2016 3:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Library Trustees Say Elected Board Suggestion Still On Table

May 17, 2016 2:39 PM

Westhampton Free Library Board members clarified this week that even though they recently voted to remain an appointed board, they have not completely dismissed the suggestion that they switch to an elected one.

At their meeting last week, which was once again highlighted by several tense moments and some shouting, the library trustees said they would revisit the idea of an elected board down the road if they ever decide that such representation would better suit the needs of the community, or if there were ever a particularly large number of people looking to join the seven-member board.

The announcement comes roughly one month after members unanimously voted to remain an appointed board after releasing a detailed report explaining that such a switch, called upon in recent months following the questionable actions of former board members, could force the board to alter its spending and hiring practices—both of which could result in higher operational costs.

“Those other libraries are serving as guinea pigs,” said Westhampton Free Library Board President Thomas Moore when referring to other association libraries that have had elected boards in place for decades in some instances. “When we offer up a seat on the board, we do not have a line out of the door, or even a line of people at the door saying they want to serve. It would be silly to take a risk.”

As is the new norm at recent library meetings, the tone of the gathering was intense at times, with board and audience members again exchanging verbal jabs over the board’s decision to stick with appointed terms. The most contentious part of the meeting occurred when Mr. Moore, the husband of Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore and himself a relatively recent appointee, stood up and attempted to silence resident Peter Zegler after he refused to leave the podium after again demanding that board members explain why they are unwilling to change from appointed to elected terms, ignoring the will of taxpayers. Mr. Zegler then returned to his seat.

Several other audience members, including Sabina Trager, a former administrative assistant for the library who was fired last year by former Board President Joan Levan, shared that they would not be supporting the library’s proposed $2.8 million budget for 2016-17, which increases overall spending by about 2 percent and was listed as a proposition on this past Tuesday’s school board ballot.

“The report on the selection of trustees does seem to be an academic conversation on should the board go to an elected board,” Ms. Trager said. “But we are not a country club, and we are not a beach club. We are not being broadly represented.”

Two other audience members, meanwhile, expressed interest in possibly serving on the library board in the future. Leon Lewendowski and Christopher Forget were both advised to submit applications to the board, most of whom were appointed to their positions only within the past few months.

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Hi, Sabina Trager here. Please visit www.wflelectedboard.org for more detailed information, but let me highlight some things in no particular order.

The Library budget increase vote is tomorrow, Tuesday, 5/17, from 7 am to 9 pm at the WHB HS. We are encouraging a VOTE NO for two main reasons. 1) The trustees of our taxpayer funded institution should be elected and 2) There is already a mass accumulation of our tax dollars in the library's bank accounts.

Go on the Library's ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on May 16, 16 7:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
I am voting "NO" for all the above reasons and the fact the Library has over $4,000,000 in their accounts as cash. They have asked voters for tax increases yet added net gains over expenses of $355,720 for 14-15 and $233,779 in 13-14 alone (see IRS form 990 for each year on the guidestore.org website) Additionally, they have "earmarked" the accumulated millions to spending over $1 mil on a new parking lot and hundreds of thousands of dollars on renovating a building that's still brand new.

Mind ...more
By Bobt (48), WHB on May 16, 16 8:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Corrected- "guidestar.org" website
By Bobt (48), WHB on May 16, 16 8:40 PM
I have to weigh in again. The "guinea pig" statement by Tom Moore is incredibly deceitful.

Since July 2015 taxpayers have been calling for an elected board on multiple platforms--Letters to the Editor, a website, a Viewpoint piece, a Facebook page, distributing flyers, writing emails, attending monthly board meetings. We have told the Board multiple times, in a multitude of ways that we are NOT the pioneers if we were to move to an elected board.

The NYS Department of Ed has ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on May 16, 16 9:46 PM
UPDATE: The Library budget increase passed 303-162.

This was the largest NO vote percentage, at 35%, in at least a few years, as far as we can tell.

We believe when the Board of Appointed Trustees begins re-designing the interior space of our not-yet-6-year-old building, and acquiring land for a new parking lot--using nearly $2 million of our accumulated tax dollars (over and above the planned building expansion using Ann Skovek's $1.3 million donation)--maybe people will say ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on May 18, 16 7:23 AM