Editorial: Speak Up, Please


For the second time in the last month, we witnessed a public board make an important decision via a vote, without being required by a board chair or legal advisor to vocalize that vote for the benefit of the public.

Obviously, this is not the way boards are meant to operate.

The Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting last month granted a significant number of variances with little discussion for a three-unit condominium project at 2 West Water Street. A majority had previously voted in a non-binding, “straw-poll” vote — an informal ballot used by the quasi-judicial panel to inform its attorney of its intentions so she can draft an approval or denial — to support the approval of the variances, with board member Bob Plumb voting no.

However, when the actual decision was made, there was no vocalization of the vote for the record — board members signed the variance approval, with the exception of Mr. Plumb, who opposed the decision, but members of the public did not hear a roll call vote.

For one of the biggest development applications in Sag Harbor, a roll call vote seems more than necessary.

Similarly, the Sag Harbor School Board of Education on Monday voted in a split 4-3 decision to extend the contract of school district superintendent Katy Graves, but it did so without a roll call vote. Instead, the board emerged from executive session with two board members — Alex Kriegsman and Chris Tice — informing the public of their positions. Board members then voted silently, via their computers.

While the district clerk did announce that the contract had been accepted, and by a divided board, members of the public had to ask the clerk at the close of the meeting who opposed and who supported arguably one of the most important contracts the board will decide on this year.

The new Board Docs system, which the board used for the vote, is an excellent tool, but — while online voting makes a clear record — it is not a transparent way to do business. If electronic voting occurs, the board should also make sure to do a roll call vote for the benefit of the public audience.