October Monthly Meeting

Thursday, October 04, 2007

October Monthly Meeting

Short meeting... the Village Board is almost half the way through the calendar when The Press Western Edition's Caroline Simson and I walk in together. (We don't plan it that way; we just arrive several minutes late and chuckle all the way up the stairwell at how certain tongues would wag... starting with that of new Planning Board Chairman Ralph Neubauer, a prac­titioner of the dark arts of innuendo and duplicity.)

One very positive announcement on the even­ing: former School Board Member Tom Moore is named to the vacant seat on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Uncommonly excellent choice for an administration sullied by "cronyism."

Schedule a number of Public Hearings for the November 1st Village Board Meeting.

  • Local Law to amend income eligibility for tax exemptions.
  • 2008/2009 Community Development Funding.
  • Local Law to amend Village Code Chapter 150.

Hmmmmn! This last one commands attention, as that section deals with "Subdivision of Land." It also commands the attention of the Muchnicks, who are in what has looked like the end stages of a seemingly interminable mu­nicipal process for their 39 three-bedroom condos on the West side of Old Riverhead Road. They are probably wondering what the Village is up to now! When the younger Much­nick asks for specifics of the proposed amend­ment, Village Attorney Hermon Bishop responds that he can provide no particulars at this time. When asked how this revision might impact on their application, nothing substantive is forthcoming.

(When the Muchnicks decamp from the meeting, new Planning Board Chairman Neubauer rushes after them for an ex parte conference in the hallway. It's likely that his words are comforting to them, but I wonder if they know how Ralph works... if they do, sleep will be uneasy chez Muchnick this night.)

Another speaker at the Public Portion of the meeting is Ms. Robin Lechner representing Harley's Paws Park Inc., a not-for-profit outfit which seeks to build dog parks in the area, and has her gaze set squarely on the former George and Charlotte Winters property on Glover's Lane, which half-acre parcel is being discussed by the Village and Southampton Town, seeking to clarify which political subdivision may do what with it and under which conditions.

Dog parks are a great idea, and a terrific use of open (park land) space... but I wonder if Ms. Lechner is familiar with the local dog walking group headed up, among others, by Steve Frankfurt and recovering cat person Florence Flood. They have been gathering together for years and walking their dogs around the Village and Quiogue. And they do it as a means of exercising themselves and their dogs, and while there's a certain socialization factor, I doubt that the trendy new "destina­tion" concept enters into it... at least it didn't in the earlier days.

Mayor Teller dismisses Ms. Lechner with a straight-forward:

"We don't even own that land yet."

Next comes the scholarly and well-spoken, and almost certainly well-intended, Mr. Harris Pal­mer, who apologetically reintroduces a subject that Mr. Bishop and Trustee Joan Levan obvi­ously wish would dis­ap­pear into the bottom of Moniebogue Bay: Mrs. Levan's participation in the approval of the $340,900 reduction in her own property assessment.

I had raised this as an issue of Ethics during last Spring's Election campaign, in a letter to The Press Western Edition of June 7th:

"(E)ven worst is the mismanagement of this year's tax assessment process, for which Trustee Joan Levan is taking credit, neglecting to mention that she approved a whopping $340,900 reduction in her own property's assessment."

Mrs. Levan never publicly responded to that documented charge, but in the selectively cir­culated "sore winner" letter two weeks follow­ing the election, she wrote:

"I did not award myself the reduction, Southampton Town did so. ... Village records clearly show that there was a vote to approve the minutes of the meeting, for which I voted yes. However I abstained from signing the final & official Verification of Assessors. It was signed by the mayor and trustees, but NOT me."

(Well, she famously accused former Dep­uty Mayor Tim Laube of "quibbling about pennies," so I shouldn't be surprised that she felt that I was quibbling about her ethics.)

A month later at the August Trustees meeting, former Village Trustee/Deputy Mayor Vic Levy very adroitly obtained information from the Village Attorney and Village Clerk Kathleen McGinnis about the exact process of the adopt­ion of the Assessment Roll, and then elicited a grudging admission from Mrs. Levan that she had "not exactly been truthful" in that post-election letter.

So, Mrs. Levan committed a violation of the Ethics Code, denied she'd done so, then admitted it on the record... (this, along with other matters of public interest from the August meeting, was not reported in The Southampton Press Western Edition).

But on October 4, 2007, in response to Mr. Palmer's inquiry, Village Attorney Bishop utters with a certain amount of anguish, that the Village Board has "failed one of its own," but asserts that it would not recur.

Interesting refashioning of the events of several months past: now it doesn't matter whether Mrs. Levan lied or not, it was the Village's fault for letting her get into the ethical quagmire in the first place!

Most of the members of the Village Board are old enough that they should easily remember the sad spectacle of Watergate, and that what brought down a President wasn't so much a burglary, but an Administration's attempt to cover it up.

(Of course we now realize that had Richard Nixon had Bill Clinton's charm and smile instead of that omnipresent five o'clock shadow and glower, he'd be remembered for having gone to China rather than insisting that he wasn't a crook.)

This is a v-e-r-y crafty crew.

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