Supervisor Grace Plans to Violate Open Meetings Law

(Facebook posting, January, 2016)
 

Supervisor Grace has announced four special Town Board meetings for the purpose of meeting with department heads to discuss staffing issues.  These discussions can have a significant impact on our taxes, e.g., adding or eliminating staff, changing positions from part to full time and/or the use of paid outside consultants.

 

But don’t bother to add these meeting dates to your calendar because Supervisor Grace has said that the meetings will be executive sessions. That means they’ll be closedto the public— a clear violation of the New York State Open Meetings Law.

 

It behooves all our Town Board members, especially the new ones like Mr. Diana and Mr. Lachterman, to familiarize themselves with both the Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information Law. Supervisor Grace may choose to ignore the laws, but these two new councilmen, along with Councilman Bernard who should already be familiar with the laws, will hopefully see things differently.   Here’s hoping they’re committed to following the law and an open and transparent town government.

 

Yesterday,  I sent a letter to all the members of the Town Board requesting that at the January 19th Board meeting, they announce that the additional meetings will be open to the public. In my letter, I cited not only the key provisions of the Open Meetings Law, but also court opinions and opinions of the NYS Committee on Open Government. The citations make clear the distinction between “personnel” discussions that deal with the employment of a particular person which can be conducted behind closed doors, and general  “policy” discussions such as staffing which must be conducted in the open.

 

I have no idea what staffing changes may be considered during these meetings or whether Supervisor Grace has already made up his mind what changes HE wants.  So I can’t comment on what may happen. Once I learn more, I may support some of the changes. I do know, though, that as a former supervisor and councilwoman, I know something about how the town operates and where and how certain staffing changes may make sense and save money:  as councilwoman during 2015, I suggested three staffing changes; one, that will result in a savings, was implemented; two were rejected outright without any discussion. 

 

No one has a monopoly on good ideas.   

 

UPDATE

  • On 1/22/2016 Susan Siegel filed  motions in Westchester County Supreme Court asking for either a Temporary Restraining Order or a Preliminary Injunction barring the Town Board from discussing staffing issues in closed executive session.
  • On 1/26/2016, Siegel and Town Attorney Michael McDermott appeared before Justice Linda S. Jamieson. During the hearing, the Justice made it clear that staffing issues had to be discussed in open ssession. Mr. McDermott agreed. Click here for the transcript of the hearing.
  • On 1/28/2016, the Town Board went into executive session to discuss "the employmehnt history of particular persons." (See Town Board, 1.28.2016.)
  • On 1/29/2016, Councilman Patel advised the media that he walked out of the 1/28/2016 in protest when the board talked about creating a new position and the town attorney did nothing to stop the discussion.