Editorial: Public Work in Public, Please


Members of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees introduced a local law this week to require homeowners to install nitrogen-reducing septic systems for new construction or large expansions this week — a smart step both adjacent town governments took in 2017.

The village’s proposed legislation was revealed on Tuesday with no discussion — not uncommon for this board — and, while we agree with the direction the board is taking on this particular issue, it follows a continually frustrating pattern.

In both East Hampton and Southampton towns and in North Haven Village, when the town or village boards are considering legislation — big and small — the public has the benefit of listening to the board members talk about the reasons why they want to consider a new law, what it should entail and the merits and drawbacks. It’s an important part of a legally public process that often takes place during a work session, or in the case of North Haven Village during its regular monthly meeting.

While Sag Harbor Village Trustees often sit in the mayor’s office — by themselves largely, save a member of the press, their attorney and clerk —for a small space of time prior to their monthly meetings, they rarely meet for a work session. Outside of special meetings meant to accomplish a few housekeeping items, the current board has had just one or two meaningful work sessions in the past 12 months. And meaningful those meetings were — there was a lot of discussion on important issues that should be aired in public.

Too often in Sag Harbor Village it appears these discussions are happening outside of the public meeting room on the second floor of the Municipal Building. Legislation deserves to be discussed by the board in public; it should also be explained in-depth in public. Engaging the residents in what future laws are being considered for the Village of Sag Harbor in a meaningful way should not be a choice, it should be a requirement.