New City resident Tom Nimick spoke to the Clarkstown Town Board Tuesday night for the second time about compliance with the . Nimick said he thought the board was not conforming with the Open Meetings Law while board members expressed opinions that they were in line with it.
“They were not very receptive,” said Nimick, who first raised concerns about compliance after the board voted to hire Jay Savino’s law firm to handle the town’s tax certiorari matters.
Councilmember Stephanie Hausner said the issues discussed in executive sessions deal with personnel matters or litigation and are appropriately handled.
“We don’t make decisions in executive session,” she said. “No votes occur during executive session.”
Councilmember Frank Borelli thought the board acted properly.
“I think the Open Meetings Law that he put forth in front of us is one that we follow,” said Borelli. “I think we do things the correct way.”
Borelli said he thought Nimick was interpreting the law differently from that of Town Attorney Amy Mele. He said there are certain conversations the board must have with the town attorney that cannot take place in an open forum.
Nimick wrote of his concerns about when decisions were actually made by the board.
“You will recall that what I first observed at a Town Board Meeting was the complete lack of deliberation on decisions you were making. I am still not sure where those deliberations were taking place. Perhaps they were happening via e-mail messages. I do not know if such a practice would be a violation of the letter of the Open Meetings Law, but carrying out deliberations on public business other than in an open meeting is definitely at odds with the intent of the law.”
Nimick noted when he requested minutes from executive sessions in 2011, he was told that no minutes existed. He described that as a violation of the Opening Meetings Law in his statement.
”I requested to see the minutes of every executive session from 2011 and have been informed that no such minutes exist – in direct violation of the Open Meetings Law.”
Hausner disputed that point on Wednesday.
“Minutes are required should a decision be made,” she said.
Hausner said recent changes to the Open Meetings Law are being instituted and the town will be specifically stating what the subject of an executive session is going to be. After Tuesday night’s workshop the board adjourned to go into executive session for the purpose of discussing the PBA contract.
Nimick said he would give the town board time another chance to respond to his written comments. Depending upon what transpires, he may seek an opinion from the New York State Committee on Open Government.
Mele also disagreed with Nimick’s analysis of the Open Meetings Law. She spoke about how the town board holds workshops that allow the public to hear board members’ questions and discussions and raise their own questions. She noted that generally no action is taken at workshops.
“I disagree with the basic premise he put forward,” she said. “I think on the whole we are very, very good at complying with the Open Meetings Law.”
Nimick’s remarks to the town board and his responses to comments from board members are in the attached PDF.