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Jan 20, 2010 12:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town considers future appointments

Jan 20, 2010 12:34 PM

The Southampton Town Board began conducting public interviews for seats on various regulatory boards this week after an appointment to the Planning Board last week sparked debate and some public anger.

The Town Board interviewed Sally Spanburgh of Southampton Village, who authors a blog on planning and design in the village, and Kristina Lewis, a former town employee, at its work session last Thursday, January 14. Both women are vying for positions on the Architectural Review Board, which has five members with expired terms, the Historic Districts and Landmarks Board, which has seven members with expired terms, or the Planning Board, which has one empty seat.

All of the members of the Historic Districts and Landmarks and Architectural Review boards whose terms are up are seeking reappointment, said Janice Wilson, executive assistant to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. Planning Board member Alma Hyman’s term expired in December, and she will not seek reappointment, according to Ms. Wilson.

At the Town Board meeting on January 12, about 10 members of the public took to the podium to protest William Berkoski Jr.’s appointment to the Planning Board, stating that the board did not conduct open interviews for the position as it promised it would. Ms. Throne-Holst complained as well and ultimately voted against the appointment.

“The recent appointment was especially disappointing to me because my colleagues chose to bypass the open process we had all agreed to,” Ms. Throne-Holst wrote in a prepared statement.

The supervisor has taken action to prevent such appointments in the near future by scheduling interviews of 16 to 20 people to fill the remaining vacancies on the appointed boards. Interviews are slated to take place during a special Town Board meeting on Friday, January 22, and at a work session on Thursday, January 28, Ms. Wilson said.

Once the interviews are completed, the Town Board is expected to make appointments at Town Board meetings in February, Ms. Wilson said.

Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who defended her decision to appoint Mr. Berkoski last week, said she is glad that the board is interviewing people in public for open seats.

“I think that anyone who is willing to step forward and put themselves out there as an interested, concerned citizen is certainly to be commended,” said Ms. Graboski, who served on the Planning Board in the 1990s. “I think it’s certainly appropriate to conduct interviews than just put people out there.”

Town Councilmen Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone did not return phone calls seeking comment before publication.

Ms. Graboski said that Mr. Berkoski’s appointment was necessary because the member he replaced, E. Blair McCaslin, had been serving as a holdover for two years. Mr. Berkoski was previously interviewed in public and was selected from among other candidates.

Ms. Graboski noted that members of the local Republican Party, of which she is a member, can pressure her to make certain appointments, but she said she never gives in to that pressure and instead makes appointments based on credentials.

Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca, however, is not comforted by the Town Board’s movement to return to the public interview process. “People are judged by their actions and words, and if their first action is 360 degrees away from what they said they would do, and then they do the right thing, well, you shouldn’t run things that way,” he said.

Also at the work session on January 12, the Town Board interviewed engineer Marc Chiffert for a spot on the Licensing Review Board, which approves, denies, issues, revokes or suspends licenses for contractors, electricians and plumbers, among other functions. The five current members of the Licensing Review Board, whose terms are expired, all want to be reappointed, Ms. Wilson said.

In addition to the Architectural Review Board, the Historic Districts and Landmarks Board, and the Planning Board, the Town Board is also interviewing for the Conservation Board, filling one vacancy on the Ethics Board, and seeing who hopes to acquire a seat on the Zoning Board of Appeals, Ms. Wilson said. She explained that there are seven members of the Conservation Board whose terms have expired, and all wish to be reappointed. Sandra Dunn, whose term on the Ethics Board is expiring, does not wish to be reappointed, Ms. Wilson said. Beth Wickey, the vice-chairwoman of the ZBA, wishes to be reappointed but the board is conducting interviews for that spot, Ms. Wilson said.

Charles Bellows, the chairman of the Historic Districts and Landmarks Board, said that he has not yet received any information on how the reappointment process will work.

“I have been on the board for a number of years, and we are making progress, although slow, and I would like to continue to contribute to constructive planning for the town for historic preservation,” Mr. Bellows said, adding that his interview process was not public. He added he would not have minded a public interview.

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Please explain to Mr DeLuca that 360 degrees from where you are is back in the same place. Maybe he meant 180 degrees.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jan 22, 10 9:55 PM
Nancy and Anna will have a tough time fighting crookhavens republican dictates. The new Mercedes Benz monstrosity on 39 is just the beginning.
The Chairman of the ARB tried to scale it down, but the Planning Board approved it anyway. Keep Mr. Charrier as Chairman of the Architectural Review board, he scrutinizes the machine's dictates and, is therefore, one of its targets!
By kelbas (30), Southampton on Jan 22, 10 11:46 PM
Let's see if this "new" Town Board will take this opportunity to cut back on the various other Boards from seven to five members, as Mr, Nuzzi was in favor of a year ago.

It would not only be a cost-savings move, but it would show that Mr. Nuzzi's original initiative to scale back the size of the Planning Board, ZBA, etc., was not politically motivated as some charged at the time.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jan 23, 10 11:46 AM
Ms. Graboski, You defend the appointment of Mr. Berkoski, but you do not address the inherent conflict of the town and Mr. Berkoski being joint plaintiffs in a suit against the village.

Mr. Berkoski is the only one who stands to gain from the town's suit regarding Aldrich Park. If such an egregious conflict of interest is defensible, then you need to reexamine your ethics. This appointment stinks to high heaven and should be overturned and the planning board position (one of the most ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jan 23, 10 1:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
they are not joint plaintiffs
By jlc52 (7), White Plains on Jan 26, 10 3:20 PM
they are not joint plaintiffs
By jlc52 (7), White Plains on Jan 26, 10 3:24 PM