Southampton Village governance is a mess, and residents of the village deserve better.
The recent police chief debacle — the latest example of poor personnel decisions — is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Repeated missteps have cost taxpayers dearly in both dollars and civic reputation. Enough is enough.
In a recent Viewpoint [“Why I Voted ‘No’ To Hiring the New Police Chief,” Viewpoint, 27east.com, December 20], Jesse Warren bemoans what he says was a flawed resolution to appoint Anthony Carter: poor transparency, insufficient public input, improper notice, a lack of collaborative norms, and political antics. If true, we should all be outraged, because the principles involved are essential to good governance.
But if Mr. Warren is “shocked, shocked” that anyone might flout those principles, he should look in the mirror, because his administration has epitomized this behavior.
Take the explosion of special meetings, most of which were entirely avoidable and smelled of either incompetence or legally dubious political shenanigans. A former village attorney — who repeatedly said that his only job was to ensure that what the mayor did was legal — resigned by informing us that he and Mr. Warren “have a dissimilarity in our approach to the conduct of village government.” It is a good assumption that Mr. Warren’s use of special meetings, along with illegal practices like poor public notice and insufficient FOIL compliance, created that “dissimilarity.”
Our current crisis also is a result of Mr. Warren’s big lie that previous administrations were so corrupt that the village was on the brink of failure (despite its AAA rating). Mr. Warren promised to “correct” this with more transparency and responsiveness.
In hindsight, none of that was true. Should we have demanded improvement and better oversight from prior administrations? Yes. Did our zoning code need updating? Yes. But was Village Hall corrupt? Was the village on the verge of failure? No and no.
Under Mr. Warren, things have only gotten worse: less transparency, decreased notice and reduced public access.
We should be grateful that the trustees now acknowledge the harm of the big lie and this administration’s failures; it is frustrating it took so long. Moreover, the gravity of the situation is in part a function of their past willingness to tolerate bad behavior. But now is not the time to criticize that willingness. Nor is it the time for trustees to discard rules in order to line up for their turn to wield the knife.
Instead, it is time for the trustees and all who love Southampton Village to roll up our sleeves, reengage, restore norms, and return to doing even the small things the right way.
We deserve better. We have a lot of work ahead to restore the village to a place worthy of pride and respect.
One fine body…