One of the unfortunate aspects of a very strange time for the East Hampton Town Board is that the public — as well as the two minority party members — rarely know in advance what subjects will be discussed at meetings.
Going back several years now, agendas for town board meetings, which are supposed to come from the office of the supervisor, have not been available until a scant few hours before their starting times. Oddly, however, annotated versions of upcoming meeting agendas have been circulated by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley from her private e-mail account rather than an official one.
The agenda gap extends to other town entities, but not all; some manage to alert the public to what they are up to well in advance. The zoning board of appeals, whose procedures are set in detail by town and state law, does so, providing detailed explanations of meetings and hearings. In fact, the Z.B.A. is an example of how it could and should be done. On the other hand, the architectural review board and, surprising perhaps, the planning board make it difficult for laypersons to figure out what is coming up.
East Hampton Town Clerk Fred Overton, who is running for a seat on the town board, knows about the agenda problem first-hand. His office is responsible for posting notices, notably on townclerk.com, an online portal designed for this purpose. This week, for example, the agenda of Tuesday’s town board work session appeared only at the last minute and one for tonight’s meeting was not available at press time yesterday morning. It would be good to hear how Mr. Overton and the other candidates for town office think these procedures can be improved.
Public participation in government is based on knowledge. East Hampton can only benefit from making access to the process open — and easy.