October 27, 2010
Town Residents Chastise Board: Knock It Off
"We have got to stop arguing!"
Fed up, Southampton Town residents have begun to voice their opposition to what they perceive as endless bickering amongst a sharply divided town board.
At a special town board meeting held on Thursday to convert the 2011 tentative budget to preliminary, a good portion of time was spent with the public watching as council members engaged in another bout of in-fighting and highly charged confrontation.
After over an hour of public bickering, resident Maggie Finnerty stood up during the public portion of the meeting and asked the board to put aside their differences for the good of the town.
Discord on a local level is reflected in all areas of government, including state, county and federal, she said. "China already owns us and if they call in the deck we're finished."
After listening to verbal sparring on a range of topics including the oft-argued and highly controversial establishment of the planning policy advisory committee, and later, charges by a member of the public that board members had not been a part of the budget process, Finnerty stood up and publicly chastised the board members for their behavior over the past months.
"I'm sick of the arguing. Please stop this and work together – move forward," she begged.
Thursday's meeting was fraught with tension over the planning policy advisory committee – a measure introduced by council members Nancy Graboski and Chris Nuzzi to "formalize" a committee put together by Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. Graboski lashed out at Throne-Holst during an earlier meeting for creating "ad hoc" committees without town board approval. The supervisor reminded any board member has the authority to do so.
On Thursday, Throne-Holst said she was not consulted regarding the resolution and would ask that a "gentleman's agreement" be in place so that members of the board communicate and consult the individuals involved out of respect and courtesy, something she "would not hesitate to extend" herself.
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming agreed, saying residents would be better served by "a level of professionalism, including communication."
And, she added, to the GOP faction of the board, "I understand you have the majority, so you can take the vote and move forward," but "squabbles on the floor" don't serve constituents.
Graboski countered that administrations and supervisors "come and go" but the goal was to put in place a committee formally that could live on.
Councilman Jim Malone said he did not see the initiative as an "affront," but instead, "a formalization."
Later in the meeting, tempers exploded when resident George Lynch of Quiogue asked board members why they repeatedly declined the supervisor's invitations to participate. "I don't get it. It seems to me we elected you to take care of the town's business," he said.
Nuzzi and Graboski set the record straight, saying they had participated in budget meetings with department heads. Nuzzi asked Lynch who'd told him the information; Lynch said Throne-Holst had discussed the issue with him.
"I know I'm easily forgotten but I was there," shot Nuzzi, calling the charge "one of the worst manipulations of fact," he'd experienced.
Graboski said it was "dangerous" to suggest to the community they had not been involved.
The supervisor acknowledged they had been at some meetings but had not participated after being invited to meetings between the requested budget meetings and the presentation of the final tentative budget.
"You can try and twist and turn this," said Thone-Holst. "Stop bullying me."