We should all thank the many volunteers dedicated to our town and village committees and boards. It is often hard and tedious work with very little thanks. Many good ideas and actions have resulted from their passion for the betterment of our communities.
However, let’s not forget that our government works for all constituents, including the boards and committees, and they must be transparent in objectives and approach.
So one should ask some serious questions about how Mayor Jesse Warren and several Southampton Village Board members are handling transparency with a select group of advisory committees.
Were you aware that a member of the Budget and Finance Committee is negotiating on behalf of the village with third parties who have no idea of his authority? Recently, this Budget and Finance Committee member held discussions to consolidate the fire district and purchase land and building structures.
Maybe there are good reasons to have these discussions, but why wasn’t there any dialogue at the Board of Trustees level for public awareness? This is not an insignificant item in the trove of government activity. I believe that many of us would have liked to have known. Was there any dialogue on the potential impact to our homeowner insurance rates and reassessment? We will simply never know.
Most personnel and contractual matters are the responsibility of our village officials and village staff who are accountable under the law — and not advisory committees. Yet we have various committees that are weighing in on confidential matters and even preventing the public from attending their meetings. Even if these committee members sign nondisclosure agreements with the village, how would the public know, and when did the Board of Trustees approve this? Where is the public resolution creating this authority stating that they would be undertaking the roles of village officials?
The village can be subject to great liability when advisory boards deal with confidential personnel, labor and financial issues but are not acting in the capacity of public officers and not accountable under law. One could even question whether their approach complies with the open meetings law, as we learned through a recent Southampton Press article, where members of the Ethics Committee held separate meetings, unbeknownst to their committee chair [“Personality Conflict Shakes Up Southampton Village Ethics Board,” 27east.com, November 10].
Why is this happening?
As a citizen, you are owed transparency for all objectives and policy recommendations that the Village Board of Trustees is making, including the advisory committees, and how they are going about it. This is where one should draw the line, as there are many red flags of late.
Allan is a former Southampton Village Board member — Ed.
One fine body…