The Village News: Editorials

February 12, 2015

Transparency 2.0


EditorialThe From The Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
“Transparent/Transparency: easy to notice or understand : honest and open : not secretive”

From The New York State "Open Meetings Law"
Ҥ100. Legislative declaration.

It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only climate under which the commonweal will prosper and enable the governmental process to operate for the benefit of those who created it.”

I have mentioned many times that I thought it was a great idea when Village Hall created a “blue ribbon” committee, comprised of some of the best business minds in the Village, to discuss possible solutions to the economic problems the Village’s Main Street is having. So that I could report on the progress of this committee, I sent Village Hall a letter requesting that I be notified when the first meeting of the committee was scheduled. Unfortunately, the first meeting of the committee came and went without my being notified.

Now, I should mention that technically, the above Open Meetings Law applies to meetings that require a quorum of two or more people and Village Hall isn’t required by law to send out a Legal Notice that the meeting would be taking place. However, the intent of the law is very clear, no secrets, everything should be done in the open rather than behind closed doors. Besides, in this case a written request was made by a resident and member of the Press so there should have been no reason not to notify me as requested.

I then called the Village Clerk and told him that I understood that the first meeting of the committee had taken place without my being notified as requested. I told him that I understood that mistakes can happen and again requested that I be notified when the second meeting of the committee was scheduled.

At the January Village Board Meeting, which took place on February 9th, the Village Board announced that the second meeting of the committee hadn’t taken place because of the bad weather and that it would be rescheduled. I raised my hand and asked why I, as a member of the Press and a resident of the Village, had not been notified regarding the scheduling of this second meeting of the committee. I told them that I had requested notification both in writing and in a phone conversation with the Village Clerk and still, no notification had been given to me.

Now, if they had said, “Gee Larry, we forgot to let you know. We’re sorry, but we’ll be sure to let you know when the next meeting is scheduled” that would have been the end of it. Instead, the Village Board tried to claim that they have no knowledge of when the meetings are scheduled and therefore, they can’t let me know when the meetings of the committee will be held. Both times? They had to know there was a meeting scheduled, or otherwise they wouldn’t have known to cancel it because of bad weather. Trustee Rosenberg is on the committee so he had to know. Quite frankly, their excuse is hog wash.

So, why am I making such a big deal about this? Because I feel this was a deliberate act on the part of the Village Board designed to limit and control the information to which has access. If we are to do our job properly, we can’t allow this to continue. YOU, the public and residents of the Village, have the right to know what’s going on. YOU have the right to know what YOUR elected officials are doing. Other than in “Executive Session” at Village Board meetings, nothing should be going on behind closed doors or in secret. The Press has the right and obligation to report on the actions of YOUR elected officials. Without free access, we cannot do our job on YOUR behalf. A terrible precedent is being set if the Village Board is allowed to selectively allow access by the Press and residents of the Village. Once again, the Bellport Village Board has to be more transparent in their actions if they are to retain the trust of the residents.


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Larry Sribnick

Larry Sribnick