Plea for Videotaping Trustees

The matter had been brought up by Diane Walker, an activist, at a trustees meeting several weeks ago

Calls for the East Hampton Town Trustees to have meetings videotaped have increased in recent weeks, with several speakers reiterating the point at a town board meeting on Tuesday. The issue had been brought up at a trustees meeting several weeks ago.

The trustees are an elected, independent board that oversees town beaches outside of Montauk and that has the authority to approve or dismiss many coastline projects. The panel was established by the Colonial-era Dongan Patent, and is not subject to decisions by the town board.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell suggested that those who think the trustees should, like all the other elected and appointed boards, have their meetings aired on the local public access station, LTV, should make their views known to the trustees. “We are happy to work with them, and accommodate any of their needs with respect to them being televised,” he said.

Televising those meetings so that those who cannot attend may be aware of decisions being made is “long overdue,” Margaret Turner, the executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance, said Tuesday. “They are elected officials; they seem to like to operate under the radar.”

The matter had been brought up by Diane Walker, an activist, at a trustees meeting several weeks ago. At the time, Diane McNally, the clerk of the trustees, pointed out that the room in the Lamb Building, on Bluff Road, Amagansett, where they meet twice a month is quite small and not wired for video cameras.

Asked to comment Tuesday afternoon, Ms. McNally said there was a “long, complicated history” and “a lot of factors to be considered” about taping. In addition to reiterating that the meeting room was small and not wired for video cameras, she said holding meetings in Town Hall would leave the trustees without access to their records, that the space was not suitable for a nine-member board, and that the trustees’ meeting schedule would conflict with that of the zoning board of appeals. Trustee meetings, Ms. McNally said, are open to the public, as are their minutes and trustee records, and they are recorded on audiotape.

“It’s a decision that should be made by this board and not made via public comment,” Ms. McNally said. However, the issue does not seem to be on the trustees’ agenda. “We have so many more important questions that need to be addressed,” she said.
        
“The trustees should be televised,” Naomi Salz said at the town board meeting earlier this week. They are “voted for by the taxpayers,” she said. “The trustees are opaque. We are in a modern age now, and it is not 1686 any longer.”