March Village Board Meeting

Thursday, March 07, 2013

March Village Board Meeting

Tonight's meeting of the Village Board was, in a word, ex­plosive! In fact, I can't recall another like it even in the in­furiatingly entertaining days of Hizzoner, Robert W. Morgan, Jr., 15th and almost final Mayor of Westhampton Beach.

It didn't start out that way, with the prosaic matters of business being attended to and, as has become common­place over the past seven months, the three stooges voting to table certain budget transfers, with Mayor Conrad Teller and Trustee Ralph Urban dissenting.

Nothing much there... the awarding of the Rogers Beach concession to, once again, Quogue Country Market, the acceptance of a bid for $169,206 to make repairs on the Village Marina, authorization of the Mayor to enter into an agreement with the 106th Rescue Wing regarding the use of fire mains, etc.

In the Public Portion of the meeting, attorney Frank Isler, representing developer Andrew Mendelson in his attempt to allow "grocery store" in the B3 District by the LIRR tracks, made his presentation and got into a verbal tussle with Village Attorney Richard T. Haefeli, but there was no indi­cation that anything was moving forward.

For a time it looked like the highpoint of the meeting would be former Deputy Mayor Toni-Jo Birk directing Trustee Junior Palmer "to have an intelligent answer" the next time he was questioned about the Village's Master Plan, the document at the root of l'affaire Mendelson.

(Palmer admitted he hasn't read the Master Plan dur­ing his "seven months" in office. [Psssst!, Junior... it's been eight!])

There was also some sporadic public disgruntlement about the manner by which the Village has recently been removing snow from sidewalks, as well as some piling on of the local Waldbaum's, rightfully everyone's favorite target.

Then it was Special Counsel Scott Augustine's time to speak, and that's when the poop hit the propeller!

Asserting that he had received and reviewed the audit report from John Lundy of Satty, Levine & Ciacco, CPAs, P.C. "last Friday" (March 1st), he found it "thorough, favorable1 and unbiased," and therefore suitable for release to the Village Board2.

Augustine then transitioned to being aggressive... "pissy" would be a better word... with the Mayor and Trustee Ralph Urban when they corrected his recitation of the timeline of certain events.

Matters quickly became heated when Augustine, in an open meeting and on the record, asserted that there were two (2!) copies of the Lundy report, and that the one which had been delivered to the Village Board on Wednesday (March 6) contained an additional three (3!) pages beyond what he, Augustine, had initially deemed acceptable to be released to the Village Board.

(He neglected to state, even in general terms, what those three additional pages contained, or how they might have impacted the sense of the report which he had found to be "thorough, favorable and unbiased.")

Additionally, the Special Counsel asserted that some of the Trustees3 knew that "there are two reports floating around out there4," going so far as to suggest that pressure had been brought to bear on Lundy's office to alter the delivered report.

That's when the real acrimony began, with howls of outrage emanating from at least one Board member, Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro physically and spontaneously levitating from her seat at the front of the room, and a cacophony of questions from the audience, a significant number of which having previously been identified as supporters of ex-Trustee Joan Levan, also in attendance.

(Those supporters included failed 2010 write-in Trustee candidate Michelle Buggé and her sister from Quiogue, as well as former ZBA member Tom Moore5 and his wife Maria, who sits on the Board of Trustees of the local library with Mrs. Levan.)

Some semblance of decorum was reestablished when Village Attorney Haefeli, barely suppressing his shock and dismay, expressed his firmly held opinion that the Special Counsel's entire presentation of attorney/client discussions in an open meeting was inappropriate, adding, "You, Mr. Augustine, are an attorney!"

The regular meeting, with those in attendance still buzzing about what they had just witnessed, broke up shortly thereafter as the Village Board went into Executive Session to discuss a Beach personnel matter.

For his part, a greatly subdued and noticably shaking Scott Augustine packed up his briefcase and scurried into the swirling snow... no one should be surprised if the next thing heard from him is a letter of resignation.

This, however, is not over by a good measure... Southamp­ton Press correspondent Erin McKinley was savvy enough to immediately file a FOIL request for the referenced audit report, and a copy of the video record of the meeting has been requested for forwarding to the appropriate authority.

And when Black Sheep TV gets a copy to Sea TV6 (see schedule), it should be one of the hotter tickets of this relatively dull Winter in Westhampton Beach.

Notes
  1. Exactly to whom was not specified, but subsequently colloquy suggests that the report was just what was sought by the three stooges.
  2. This apparently is within the scope of Augustine's duties as Special Counsel, that he review such reports before the Board receives them.
  3. Just which Trustees were not identified, but the three stooges would be a fair surmise.
  4. Later, when pointedly questioned about the use of the phrase "floating about out there," a by-this-time rattled Augustine back-tracked and apologized for his choice of words.
  5. Moore found it prudent to resign his ZBA seat when it was revealed that he had been acting as shadow counsel to the three obstructionist Trustees, Levan, Hank Tucker and Jim Kametler, and had authored four illegal resolutions passed by them at the March 2010 Village Board meeting.
  6. The Village has apparently discontinued the practice of mounting videos of the Trustees meetings for archival purposes on its Website.

Comments

1. Jeanne Speir said...

How can an audit report be "favorable?"

Please tell me again why this guy was hired in the first place?

Precisely! If it is "favorable," that supposes it is advantageous to one particular position, and by extension, damaging to another! We saw what was afoot Thursday evening as Augustine progressed in his presentation. There was a little skit prepared, and not particularly well because it fell apart at the first challenge.

Augustine's tack, as will be seen on the video once it is released, is that someone... and it was clear that he was aiming for the Mayor... on the Village Board directed someone else in the auditor's offices, to add three additional pages to the initial copy of the report he had reviewed, and those three pages substantially altered the substance of that report.

It not only blew up in his face, and the faces of those whose agenda he was discharging, but is going to leave Augustine open to action.

Scott Augustine was hired at the direction of the four Trustees in October to look into what they felt were some "discrepancies" in the Village's finances.
  1. It was obvious from the beginning what those so-called "discrepancies" were, and why... the minor one was the biweekly/semi-monthly way of calculating employees' payroll, and the larger one, the settlement of the Police contract. But the three stooges and their puppet mistress thought they could make some political capital out of it.
  2. I daresay that one of the four Trustees who voted to engage Augustine, would recall his vote if he could.
Augustine's own words betray his purpose. The last of this has yet to be heard!
Dean

2. Jeanne Speir said...

OK, I checked out the Sea TV schedule and am missing the replay time and date. Can you tell me when we'll be able to see the video? Or can you "TiVo" it? I'm considering hosting a get-together for 11978 residents.

They should know what their Trustees have done; more importantly, what they haven't done.

I don't know, but when I find out I'll post notice of it.

I wouldn't bother about hosting anything for the "11978 residents." Few know what's going on, and even fewer make the effort to find out.
Dean

3. 1340 said...

"Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world, indeed, it is the only thing that can" (or words close to that) Margret Mead

Actually, that's pretty close to what was attributed to her, circa 1984:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Good job!
Dean

4. Max Mascia said...

I'd like to know so I can watch it on the website.

When I know, you'll know.
Dean

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