appears to only be for the "privileged".
At the last town board meeting, we were told that there no longer is time allotted on the agenda for public presentations. Apparently, it was discontinued with the adoption of the 2014 Organizational resolutions. Tyksinski was quoted as saying, if you want to address the town board, you have to contact the town clerk by the Monday prior to the board meeting and let her know what you would like to talk about.
With the new rule now spelled out not only at the last town board meeting, but also in the Observer Dispatch, everyone was clear as to how to proceed if they wanted to address the board...right?
Since there was no public presentation listed on last night’s town board agenda; the business of the meeting got underway as soon as the Pledge of Allegiance was done.
A couple of resolutions were adopted and then, just as the town board was to vote on accepting the Comprehensive Plan, a voice from the back of the room asked to be recognized. Supervisor Tyskinski asked him to wait for a minute.
Then, just before the new zoning laws were adopted, Tyksinski acknowledged the person who wanted to speak to the board.
The resident apologized for missing the Public Hearing that was held last month on the Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws, but he wanted to address the town board on an issue regarding the zoning laws prior to the town board adopting the new law.
The public hearing for the Comprehensive Plan was held weeks ago; Tyksinski already said there are no longer public presentations unless you register with the Town Clerk; however, the person in the back of the room was recognized by Supervisor Tyksinski saying he would allow him to speak because of his “service to the town”.
You see, he was a retired New Hartford Police Officer. Apparently, the rules of public comment don’t apply to anyone who has “service to the town”.
Supervisor Tyksinski gave the person in the back of the room several minutes to make his presentation. Tyksinski even recessed the meeting a couple of times so that he could make calls to the town attorney for guidance regarding the question of whether or not it would be proper to grandfather the person’s project before the new zoning laws were adopted. (Town Attorney Cully was not in attendance at tonight’s meeting). Tyksinski even asked several questions of town employees who were in attendance regarding the development in question. After 16 minutes of conversation, the town board passed a resolution to grandfather the project that was started in 1994, but never completed.
Here is the video of that portion of the meeting:
The meeting continued with other items from the agenda. One of the items was introduced by Councilman Reynolds who felt that public participation should be re-instated. Discussion ensued.
We have to give kudos to Councilman Reynolds. He was the one who brought the subject to the table in the first place; voted in favor of public comments; and voted “nay” to require signing up with the town clerk if you have questions that you want to address to the town board.
At this point, it would be easier to just watch this part of the video than for us to try to describe the discussion!
Bottom line, as of tonight's adopted board resolutions, comments are accepted...but NO questions. If you want to ask questions of the town board, the town attorney or an employee, you need to sign up with the town clerk by Monday prior to the meeting…unless of course, you “have service to the town” and are in good standing with the town supervisor.
In that case, apparently you can ask a question of the town board anytime during the meeting that you want, even involve the town attorney and also town employees...exactly what Supervisor Tyksinski says he wants to avoid by requiring people to register with the town clerk! Guess the town is run just like American Express...membership (in the friends & family plan) has it's privileges!
The law does not require a public comment portion of a public meeting, but courts have determined that the rules governing public participation at meetings must be reasonable and consistent so as to be fair to everyone. The town board is on a slippery slope to be sure!
The entire town board meeting is now available on our YouTube Channel.