Government Briefs 1.12.12

East Hampton Town

Ethics Committee
    East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson announced last Thursday night that the town ethics board had found no wrongdoing after being asked to look into whether Len Bernard, the budget officer, had acted improperly in corresponding from his town office with the state comptroller and a member of the press regarding assertions in campaign literature for Zachary Cohen, Mr. Wilkinson’s Democratic challenger in the November election.
    Mr. Bernard had questioned Mr. Cohen’s characterization of his involvement in efforts to straighten out the town’s previous financial accounting, resulting in a letter to Mr. Cohen from the state comptroller saying Mr. Cohen’s statement that he provided services as a “financial analyst” was misleading. The matter was referred to the ethics board after Democrats suggested Mr. Bernard was engaging in political business from town office.
    The dispute became an issue in the campaign. Mr. Cohen, who offered his help as a volunteer with a business, math, and financial background, denied mischaracterizing his role, pointing to e-mails indicating his involvement and noting that he did not mean to suggest anything other than a volunteer role.

Office Condo Bids
    After issuing a request for bids from potential buyers of seven condominium units now occupied by town offices, the town has received one bid, for purchase of just two of the units, according to the East Hampton Town Purchasing Department.
    It is expected that details of the bid will be presented to the town board for discussion at an upcoming meeting. However, according to Jeanne Carozza, the purchasing agent, the bid met minimum specifications.
    Those specifications called for a minimum bid price of $3 million for all seven units, though an appraisal set a bulk sale price at $3.7 million, and a total price, if sold individually, of $4.4 million. A “quick sale” market value for all seven units was set at $3.4 to $3.6 million.
    The request for bids was issued by the town board after an undisclosed buyer indicated interest in purchasing all seven units, provided a closing could take place immediately. Although long-range discussions of a Town Hall campus had included the possibility of selling the office condos to raise money for reconstruction of the old Town Hall, or a new building, no plans have been laid for accommodating the offices that would be displaced by a sale. However, the sale bid specifications included a provision that the offices could remain in place for a year at no cost to the town.

Solar Panels
    With enough money left over from a grant used to erect solar energy panels on the Lamb building on Bluff Road in Amagansett, the town board hoped to put solar panels on the town police substation in Montauk as well, but was faced with a dilemma when it was discovered that the police building roof needed repairs before it could support the installation.
    On Tuesday, the board agreed to spend $20,000 on the roof repairs. The money will be recouped through long-term energy savings.
    A local law regarding solar energy equipment installations will be the subject of a public hearing before the board next Thursday night. The law, which will provide for an expedited review and permitting process for the installation of solar panels on the roofs of residential properties, mirrors a template developed by Suffolk County. The hearing will begin at 7 at Town Hall.

No Saturday Board Sessions
    A lack of attendance at once-a-month Saturday town board work sessions has resulted in a decision to drop the weekend schedule. The Saturday meeting was instituted two years ago under the incoming Wilkinson administration to provide a forum for second homeowners and others who cannot attend the meetings held on weekday mornings and evenings.
    The town board, at its work session on Tuesday, agreed to the change, suggested by Mr. Wilkinson. If needed, occasional special meetings will be scheduled for a Saturday.