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Dec 2, 2009 12:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Kabot takes down press release after town attorney files complaint

Dec 2, 2009 12:26 PM

A press release penned by Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot was removed from the town’s website on Monday amid complaints by Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray that language in the release was inflammatory.

The six-page press release announcing the recent adoption of the town’s 2010 budget, which included many of the amendments proposed by Supervisor-elect Anna Throne-Holst, was distributed on November 22 and posted on the town website. The release details numerous aspects of the $79.4 million spending plan, including the tax rate, various operating funds and the reorganization of the town’s public works department.

But the verbiage in the release, including words like “balked,” “haste” and “demotion,” struck Ms. Murray as inflammatory, Ms. Kabot said.

“I have removed it,” she said, “but I still stand by the press release.”

Ms. Murray, who approached Ms. Kabot on Monday asking for the press release to be taken down, did not return calls seeking comment. Ms. Murray is expected to serve as acting town attorney following the exit of Town Attorney Dan Adams from his post at the end of the month.

Other Town Board members—including Ms. Throne-Holst, who defeated Ms. Kabot in the November election—did not return calls seeking comment. Ms. Kabot said Ms. Murray was acting on instructions from members of the board to criticize the press release, but she declined to name names.

One passage in the press release that Ms. Murray told Ms. Kabot was inflammatory stated that Town Board members “blocked” Ms. Kabot from scheduling a public hearing on a local law that would have required administrators and elected officials to cover part of the cost of their health insurance.

“Three members of the Town Board blocked Supervisor Kabot from scheduling a hearing,” Ms. Kabot wrote in the press release. “During their tenure as board members, Councilwoman [Nancy] Graboski and Supervisor Kabot have never voted to obstruct other legislators from scheduling public hearings on their initiatives.”

Ms. Kabot defended the inclusion of the passage, noting that the same information was stated by her at a recent Town Board meeting. “That was stated on the floor,” she said.

In another passage, Ms. Kabot said Ms. Murray criticized the characterization of a vote by the board to decrease the salary of Chief Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft, in connection with a reorganization of the municipality’s Department of Public Safety. “I used the word ‘demotion,’ and the town attorney thought that was a loaded word,” Ms. Kabot said.

Ms. Murray also complained, according to Ms. Kabot, that the press release included the hometowns of nine town officials who are assigned town-owned vehicles for traveling to and from work. “Revealing the area they live in without revealing the street is apparently inflammatory,” she said.

The Republican supervisor dismissed allegations that statements in the press release were politically motivated. Ms. Throne-Holst is an independent candidate who received the endorsement of the Democratic Party in last month’s election.

“It had everything to do with policy,” Ms. Kabot said. “I didn’t see anything political to be connoted from the press release. It was not a political document.”

Town policy, Ms. Kabot said, allows any elected official to write and distribute a press release. Normally, such releases are not reviewed by the town attorney, she noted. “There has been no practice of having the town attorney review your press releases,” she said.

Regarding Ms. Throne-Holst and her incoming administration, which takes office on January 1, Ms. Kabot stated: “I think that this is a harbinger of what is to come. There will be a tight control over what information will be released ... there could be a new approach to the way that information is presented.”

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The issue is not the press release, the issue is posting it on the website. Officals should be allowed to continue with uncensored press releases-they just should not be posted on the town website.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 1, 09 9:43 PM
Well, Linda has always been a bit of a loose cannon, but how inflammatory could her language have been" The offending release was up for a week and no one marched on Hampton Road with tar, feathers and muskets.

Still, it seems that the Supervisor rethought her action and words after the Deputy Town Attorney spoke with her, and removed the "release" of her own accord.

But if Cheryl Kraft wasn't demoted, what did happen to her? Oh, that's right, she had her pay adjusted -- downward!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 2, 09 10:26 AM
Cannot wait until she is finally gone.
By yearrounder (208), Southampton on Dec 2, 09 2:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
After our publication deadline, I received a call from Anna Throne-Holst, and since we weren't able to include her comments in the story above, I wanted to pass them along to web readers.

Ms. Throne-Holst said Kathleen Murray was directed to act on the matter, but not by anyone in the Town Board office, and certainly not by the supervisor-elect. She stopped short of identifying who directed Ms. Murray.

Ms. Throne-Holst also said when she learned of the controversy, she was opposed ...more
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Dec 2, 09 5:40 PM
Is anyone else wondering where the "news" is here?

It sounds like Kabot put up a press release (something all politicians do), some council members didn't like it, they complained to a Town Attorney, and then, for some reason, that attorney (instead of the council people) complained to Kabot and she took it down. Is that all?

By BobbyH (44), Southampton/NYC on Dec 3, 09 1:05 AM
wow a press release that actually contains the truth is removed from public view.

cheryl kraft stripped of her position and pay cut
chief building inspector and waste management director have take home cars to where they live in patchogue and islip respectively. obviously for all those off hour dump emergencies and building inspections.

dont the tax payers get to know where their money is going.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Dec 3, 09 9:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
didn't seem derogatory to me; sometimes the truth hurts.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Dec 4, 09 1:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Dec 4, 09 5:21 PM