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In wake of turmoil and resignations, Town Board reorganizes committees

The Town Board on July 30 approved changes to regulations affecting boards and committees. The changes reflect what Supervisor Gerry Siller had characterized as members thinking they were decision makers, rather than advisers to the Town Board.

The revisions had been discussed at a public hearing and include:

• Anyone appointed to a committee has no guarantee of reappointment and could be removed if that person is failing to add constructively to the aims of the committee.

• If a committee member wants to speak out about an issue before another board or committee, he or she can do so as an individual at a public meeting of the other committee. But a committee member can’t ask his own committee to render an opinion on a matter pending before the Town Board, Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals unless one of those three specifically asks for an advisory opinion.

• Except for the Town Board, Planning Board or ZBA, no other committee would have independent authority, serving only to advise those committees if they request an opinion.

• The scope of what a committee could discuss would be limited to its specific charge unless the Town Board sought additional information for any reason.

• Agendas would be created by committee chairs with input from Town Board liaisons and a member can request an addition within the committee’s realm 24 hours in advance of a meeting.

• Appointments to committees would be based to the extent possible on specific knowledge of the subject with which the committee deals, while ensuring there’s no conflict of interest because of a personal agenda a potential member might have.

The new charges to the boards and committees came after former Community Housing Board (CHB) member Bob Kohn tried to get the CHB to weigh in on an application pending before the ZBA from the Gardiner’s Bay Country Club to create staff housing on its property.

Mr. Kohn has subsequently been removed from the CHB and that committee is in the process of being reconstituted. The committee currently has only one member, Chris DiOrio. But Peter McCracken, who had resigned from the CHB in the wake of the controversy over statements by Mr. Kohn about affordable housing, has asked to be reappointed. Several others sent letters to Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar expressing interest in serving on the CHB.

During several discussions of the proposed committee clarifications, there were charges the Town Board had failed to communicate appropriately. Gordon Gooding, chairman of the Community Preservation Advisory Committee, said he would have expected to be informed before changes were made public and even threatened his own resignation, which was rejected by Mr. Siller.

Subsequently, Mr. Siller met with committee chairmen before the changes were finalized for the July 30 vote.