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Letter: Civil Discourse

(Editor’s Note: The following letter is in response to Trustee Daughney’s letter to the editor printed in the Feb. 10 edition of Garden City Life, entitled “King Tom’s Law.”)

I served four years as a trustee and was chair of the Mayor’s Committee on St. Paul’s. I never mocked, ridiculed or insulted a resident who criticized me no matter how they expressed themselves. Personal attacks by trustees on residents who criticize them have no place in our civil discourse. For Trustee Daughney to call me King with “disciples” is beneath the dignity of his office.

Conduct of Our Government: In last week’s letter Trustee Daughney criticized me for objecting to the Board of Trustees (“Board”) going into executive session to consider an opinion of counsel. He is correct that the Board may do that based on the attorney client privilege to preserve confidential information. However the scope of the privilege is limited. Once the attorney’s advice is given the privilege has ended and the Board is required to return to public session to discuss the policy issue. Further, there is no attorney client privilege if there are outside parties in the room when the attorney’s opinion is given. (Opinion from the Committee on Open Government OMI-AO-4622 May 5, 2008).

While I was trustee, the board frequently went into Executive Session using this privilege as a pretext. Let me illustrate:

1. Meeting with Garden City Hotel owner and/or attorney to discuss changes to the Village Code to provide for additional apartments.

2. Meeting with LIRR officials to discuss the Third Track proposal

3. Meeting with the developer and/or his representatives regarding the proposal to develop the “Hub”

4. Meetings to consider changes to the Zoning Law regarding;

a) The apartment house and townhouse development on Stewart Avenue,

b) The assisted living proposal on the Cathedral property,

c) The development of the Texaco gas station site on Seventh Street.

5. Meeting to consider the Village’s response to Mineola’s apartment house proposal on Old Country Road.

These were among the many meetings the Board had behind closed doors, at which policy discussions were had, many of which were attended by outside parties. I objected to these meetings. However, counsel advised the Board that they were lawful because the board could seek an opinion of counsel. He was wrong, as policy discussions were held and outside parties were often present.

The school board meets monthly in “work sessions” to discuss policy issues in public. Why doesn’t the village board give our residents that right?

Thomas M. Lamberti

Garden City