Just Giving Advice - 27 East

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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1730583

Just Giving Advice

I am writing to clarify significant misperceptions that were included in the October 15 issue of The Press in an article, “Southampton Village Board Members Say They Weren’t Invited To Attend Live Meeting” [27east.com, October 14].

As a matter of introduction, I am the chair of the Village Budget and Finance Committee. I have had a 45-year career over several positions, including serving as New York City deputy budget director, the chief financial/administrative officer of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Society, the chief operating officer at both Hunter College and The City College of New York, and controller of the City University of New York. I am a resident of the village and am very happy to lend my experience and skills to Southampton Village as a volunteer.

The Village Budget and Finance Committee was created as an advisory committee to assist the mayor and the village trustees in the preparation and maintenance of the village budget, and the attendant issues of fiscal oversight.

There is no policy-making role for the committee. If the mayor and trustees choose to accept, or not take, the advice that the committee provides on any issue, that is their prerogative. There should never be any mistake about that statement of fact.

The reason for the confidentiality clause in the mission statement is to avoid the potential for personal information about village employees and associated individuals from being publicized inappropriately. There is no sinister intention; it is intended to protect the village and the committee’s work from potential breaches of confidentiality.

With respect to whether the committee is subject to the Public Meetings Law, our village attorneys, the New York Conference of Mayors and New York State’s Committee on Open Government all agree that the committee was correct in its deliberation on this matter and is not subject to the Open Meetings Law, since it is purely advisory in nature.

Finally, it should be noted that Trustee Andrew Pilaro incorrectly “advised” that committee members are required by Section 3-13 of the village code to reside in the village. This section applies to officers of the village who hold a “village office.” Not committees.

While it shouldn’t need to be justified, our committee thought there is value to allowing one non-resident, since we rely on expert volunteers with finance and budgeting experience who may reside outside the village. The committee has five members, of whom four must be residents, so the village is substantially represented by residents.

Leonard F. Zinnanti

Southampton Village

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