By: Progress for Westhampton Beach
Highlights from the work session, the meeting was called to order at 7:03 after everyone was seated:
♦The Village Attorney made his recommendation to the Board of Trustees to eliminate jail as a penalty for certain village code violations, and that penalties for such violations be only monetary. This was in response to a request from the Trustees that had been made at the first Village Board meeting of 2014-15 official year of the village held on July 7th.
Mr. Haefeli further explained that more significant violations of the code can be addressed in NY State Supreme Court (in NY this is the trial level court) by obtaining injunctive relief.
♦ CPF (Community Preservation Fund) : Mayor Teller, by letter dated June 17th, requested that the Board for the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund review the eligibility for purchase of property located at 159 Mill Road, Westhampton Beach. Contrary to the letter sent by Mayor Teller to the CPF Fund Manager, the sitting Trustees said they were not consulted about this referral.
Also before the most recent mayoral election, Herman Bishop sent a letter to village hall offering to sell this parcel of property to the village for $425,000, but with the condition that the village keep it as a “passive park” i.e. that we just have grass, no swings, or other park equipment. This property is assessed as being only worth $373,700 without any restrictions on its use.
The Building Inspector said he was familiar with the property and indicated that the lot could be built upon in the absence of the restrictions Mr. Bishop requires.
Here is the tax roll (click to enlarge):
Victor Levy who was in attendance at the work session, and familiar with the requirements for Fund purchases, indicated that he did not believe the property satisfied the criteria for purchase of that property.
♦The Village Attorney recommended a path to restore the mayor’s full salary and gave the following historical synopsis:
In 1986 the Board of Trustees passed a local law limiting the salary for the Mayor to $11,000, which local law became effective on July 1, 1986.
Nonetheless, Mayor Teller and his predecessor were paid and accepted salaries well in excess of this law. In 2001 the mayor doubled the $11,000 salary and was paid $22,000. This was contrary to the local law limiting the salary to $11,000.
From 2001 on it was increased incrementally until 2005 when it reached $25,124.00. The local law was never amended and never repealed. The limit of $11,000 was overlooked.
To put this in perspective, these payments were mistakenly authorized annually as part of the regular budgetary process as has been the practice statewide. This general procedure has been recognized as proper by the NY State Comptroller. However, the local law adopted in 1986 remained a forgotten vestige that made these payments legally improper. The mayoral salaries were approved by various boards of trustees, and the candidates were elected and re-elected in spite of the oversight. Plainly, our community thought that the mayoral salary of $25,124.00 in 2006 and continuing for years afterward was fair.
According to the Village Clerk, Mayor Teller was paid and accepted $25,124.00 in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. In 2010 Mayor Teller voluntarily reduced his salary for the balance of his time in office. The excess compensation to Mayor Teller over and above the statutory $11,000 annual limit totals $62,744. Mayor Moore made it clear, and the Board of Trustees agreed, it would not seek to recover the over payments paid to Mayor Teller.
The Village Attorney recommended at the work session that the local law restricting the mayor’s salary to $11,000 be repealed. He further suggested that the budget be amended to reflect the restoration of the salary of $25,124.00 that was paid to both prior mayors.
♦The Mayor suggested that the moribund Glover’s Park project be the subject of renewed efforts by the entire board of Trustees; that donations of time and materials be sought; and that it be considered whether the Suffolk County Downtown revitalization fund might be a source of matching funds along with park trust funds to enhance the effort. The grant application that was in use this past year was provided to the Trustees, in anticipation of the possibility that a similar grant may be available in 2015.
♦The Mayor advised the Board of Trustees that there would be no liaison assignments, but that the Board would work together and information would be shared equally. She did allow that individual projects could be the subject of assignment, but that general liaison assignments in the past have proved largely ineffective.
The Board of Trustees then adjourned to Executive Session to discuss Police Personnel Matters; Board Appointments; and Pending Litigation. The Executive Session was concluded and the meeting was adjourned at 10:34 p.m.