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Jun 24, 2009 1:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Special election measure likely to go to voters

Jun 24, 2009 1:44 PM

Southampton Town voters will soon likely have the power to choose who fills an elected post at Town Hall when it becomes vacant.

As it stands now, when elected officials leave office before their terms expire, the Town Board appoints their replacements—as was the case in February 2008 when Dan Russo was selected to serve on the Town Board when member Linda Kabot was elected supervisor. But a new resolution proposes to mandate special elections in the event of vacancies in the offices of town supervisor, Town Board member, highway superintendent, town clerk and tax receiver.

A public hearing on the resolution, sponsored by the majority of the Town Board, is ongoing, and the issue will be discussed by the board at their July 14 meeting.

If adopted, the measure would appear on the November 3 ballot and would have to be approved by the voters in order to take effect. If that happens, special elections would have to be held 60 to 90 days after an office becomes vacant. If a vacancy occurs within 90 days of a regularly scheduled general election, the post would remain vacant until the general election.

For the measure to appear on the November 3 ballot, the Town Board would have to adopt the resolution by September 4.

According to Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, Suffolk County would cover the cost of a special election if the voters of the town approve the ballot proposition in November.

At Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, only Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi appeared to be against changing the status quo, arguing that town law clearly allows the board to select a replacement through a simple majority, and whoever was chosen to fill the vacancy had to eventually run to keep the seat. Mr. Nuzzi also said that voters hold Town Board members responsible for whom they choose as an appointee.

Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, however, said she was against “anoint and appoint” arguing that the vast majority of those appointed to a vacant seat are looking to run for that office and that appointment gives them a leg up.

Also on Tuesday, the Town Board tabled a resolution that would change the elective offices of highway superintendent and tax receiver to appointed ones, a proposal sponsored by Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski—one that Mr. Nuzzi said he didn’t understand.

“We’re moving to change town law that allows us to appoint someone to an elective position when it becomes vacant, but we’re also looking to change elective positions to appointed ones,” he said.

That resolution will be back on the agenda for the board’s July 14 meeting.

BRIAN BOSSETTA

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Can someone explain to me why Kabot opposes "annoint and appoint" for town board members and instead wants them elected. But she wants to take away the voter's rights to elect their tax receiver?
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Jun 24, 09 3:21 PM
Appoint and anoint has always been a way for the party in power to stay in power.
Our electorate decided to change that when Sally Pope replaced the town board's appointment.
Let the voters decide in both cases.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Jun 29, 09 10:42 AM
I have to agree with Nuzzi's comments...it doesn't make sense.
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 30, 09 6:02 AM