Posted by: Dawn Powell | July 16, 2010

Putnam Valley Planning Board backroom meetings

Illegal Backroom Meetings

 5:30 “Communications” at the PlanningBoard

The Open Meetings Law is the law that protects the public’s right to know what its government is doing.  I have been unable to get to the 5:30 meetings since the Open Meetings Law changed, that is, until Monday night, July 12.  Prior to the change in the law, I had requested an opinion from Mr. Robert Freeman, the Chair of the NYS Committee on Open Government.  He was clear.  His advisory opinion was that a quorum of the Board (in this case 3 members) is a public meeting, and must be held in a room that can accommodate the public.  That would be the courtroom, not the back conference room.  At that time, three Planning Board members also regularly met without proper notice to rewrite the zoning code as per Mr. Tendy’s instructions.

 I spoke to Mr. Zutt about the violation of the open meetings law. I posted Mr. Freeman’s advisory opinion.  Mr. Tendy reprimanded me for accusing the Planning Board of having illegal meetings.  He did it in front of the Town Board members (in the backroom), so I’m certain that all of the Town Board members knew about the illegal meetings.  And of course, none of them did anything.

 So then the law changed.  It is now no longer “merely” an advisory opinion that the meetings be held in a room that can accommodate the public.  It is written into the law.

 But I haven’t had the time to go to the meetings, and could not complain about something about which I did not have firsthand knowledge.

 Well, now I can complain.   You will love their creative solution.

I went in at 5:30.  The Town Engineer, the Town Wetlands Inspector, and the Planning Board Chair were there.  The Code Enforcement Officer came in, then the Town Attorney, then the Planner, then another Planning Board member.  The Planning Clerk was in and out.  At that point, Mr. Zutt announced that since all the major players were there, they should start the meeting.  The Chair told the Clerk that the members of the public should wait in the other room since there was no quorum.  So an announced backroom meeting is held, with the public kept out, as long as there is no quorum. 

 The newest member of the Planning Board started to walk in and was waved away.  And another member of the Board came in and did not walk into the backroom.  Thinking that she was going to go in, I went back in, and they were talking about continuing their conversation the next day when they can communicate without the pesky public coming in (pesky public is my editorial comment).

 Avoidance of the public seems to be the name of the game for this group.  I can’t wait to see what Mr. Freeman has to say about it.

DP


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