To Convene Or Not Convene Legally, That is the Question

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Mr. Sliwa:

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As the town attorney for Amherst I am contacting you regarding my concern as to how a recent executive session was conducted by the Amherst Planning Board. I would appreciate if you can address my concerns and forward this email to the members of the Planning Board.

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Dear Amherst Planning Board Members:

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As a concerned citizen I reviewed the agenda for your May 19, 2016 meeting and watched the meeting video tape.

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Item 8.1 of the agenda simply stated “Legal Matter”.

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When item 8.1 of the agenda came up during the meeting a motion was made at the 2:51 mark of the tape to go into executive session to discuss a “confidential legal matter”. When Board member Shapiro inquired as to what the legal matter was the response provided was that can’t be answered in public. When member Shapiro asked whether this was regarding pending litigation, the answer given was that can’t be answered. Ms. Shapiro pointed out that before going into executive session the reason for the executive session must be stated.

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As an attorney familiar with the New York State Open Meetings Law, I believe that Ms. Shapiro was correct and that the Board violated the law by going into executive session improperly.

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Robert Freeman as the Executive Director for the New York State Committee on Open Government is a recognized expert on the Open Meeting Law. Mr. Freeman has rendered many opinions on the subject of holding executive sessions.

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Attached is a 2008 Opinion written by the New York State Committee on Open Government, which states to validly convene an executive session for discussion of proposed, pending or current litigation, the public body must identify with particularity the pending, proposed or current litigation to be discussed during the executive session.

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A key portion of the Opinion is repeated below:

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It is emphasized that the Open Meetings Law requires that a procedure be accomplished, during an open meeting, before a public body may enter into an executive session. Section 105(1) states in relevant part that:

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“Upon a majority vote of its total membership, taken in an open meeting pursuant to a motion identifying the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered, a public body may conduct an executive session for the below enumerated purposes only…”

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As such, a motion to conduct an executive session must include reference to the subject or subjects to be discussed, and the motion must be carried by majority vote of a public body’s total membership before such a session may validly be held. The ensuing provisions of §105(1) specify and limit the subjects that may appropriately be considered during an executive session.

Further, it has been held judicially that :

“…the public body must identify the subject matter to be discussed (See, Public Officers Law § 105 [1]), and it is apparent that this must be accomplished with some degree of particularity, i.e., merely reciting the statutory language is insufficient (see, Daily Gazette Co. v Town Bd., Town of Cobleskill, 111 Misc 2d 303, 304-305). Additionally, the topics discussed during the executive session must remain within the exceptions enumerated in the statute (see generally, Matter of Plattsburgh Publ. Co., Div. of Ottaway Newspapers v City of Plattsburgh, 185 AD2d §18), and these exceptions, in turn, ‘must be narrowly scrutinized, lest the article’s clear mandate be thwarted by thinly veiled references to the areas delineated thereunder’ (Weatherwax v Town of Stony Point, 97 AD2d 840, 841, quoting Daily Gazette Co. v Town Bd., Town of Cobleskill, supra, at 304; see, Matter of Orange County Publs., Div. of Ottaway Newspapers v County of Orange, 120 AD2d 596, lv dismissed 68 NY 2d 807)”

We stress that a public body may validly conduct an executive session only to discuss one or more of the subjects listed in §105(1) and that a motion to conduct an executive session must be sufficiently detailed to enable the public to ascertain that there is a proper basis for entry into the closed session.

A 1996 decision (also attached) written by Mr. Freeman states the proper way to motion for an executive session is “I move to enter into executive session to discuss our litigation strategy in the case of XYZ Company v. the City of Geneva.” Mr. Freeman also stresses that the purpose of an executive session to discuss pending litigation is to permit a public body to discuss its litigation strategy and not issues that might result in litigation.

In light of the above cited opinions which also reference Court decisions, my hope is that the Planning Board will correct the Agenda and minutes for the May 19, 2016 meeting by properly identifying the legal matter that was discussed under item 8.1.

I further hope that the Planning Board will change how it describes legal matters on future meeting Agendas and that motions for executive sessions will be properly done by specifying the legal matter and the reasons for an executive session, so that it complies with the Open Meetings Law.

I appreciate the time you devote to public service as I know that it is not easy work. My concern as a resident and as an attorney is that the public can see your work and that the law is properly followed.

I have copied Mr. Freeman on this email and I welcome any further information that he would like to share.

A copy of the video for the Planning Board meeting I am referring to is also attached.

Paul Wolf, Esq.

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New Carnival This Weekend in Williamsville

Village Spring party 2016

Runs ThursdaySunday; Proceeds to benefit historic railroad depot

Who:    The Village of Williamsville
Midway Rides of Utica
The Western New York Railway Society

What:   The first-ever Williamsville Spring Fair kicks off today in Williamsville. The carnival, managed by Midway Rides of Utica, will feature more than 15 rides for children of all ages. Admission to the carnival is free and traditional fair foods will be available for purchase. The event is meant to draw awareness to the South Long Street area, which is being redesigned as a walkable neighborhood with small shops and townhomes. Proceeds from the rides will benefit the WNY Railway Society, which manages the Lehigh Valley Train Depot on the carnival site. The Railway Society will also host a flea market from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

When5 to 9 p.m. Thursday;
5 to 10 p.m. Friday;
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday;
Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: South Long Street Park, South Long Street, Williamsville, NY 14221

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Morley Safer, Stalwart of ‘60 Minutes,’ Dies at 84

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Editorial: Why Our Town Board Meetings Are A Joke

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You walk into an Amherst Town Hall meeting.  You came to say something about a certain project which is on the agenda for that evening.

The rule was you had to sign up before 7:oo pm to be able to speak about the topic which concerned you.  If you “fell in snow” and came into the meeting 5 minutes late you couldn’t speak at the first free expression part of the meeting, but if you hung around until the end of the meeting you would be allowed to speak.  The trouble with speaking at the end of the meeting is that hardly anyone is there to hear what you have to say.

Currently the agenda is set up slanted for the Town Board members who control all the information pertaining to what the meeting will be about.  There usually are about 49 items on the agenda which Town Board members can talk about.  The Board usually puts 95% of the items “on consent” which means there can be no discussion about them by either the Town Board or the public.

The audience isn’t allowed to ask any questions about these items because they have already been discussed in the afternoon where no questions can be asked by the public, like any town business done in the past two weeks like purchases they’ve made, people they’ve hired and other important things the Town is in involved in, or what they plan to do in the future.

The way the town meeting runs the public can address the Board before any of the Town’s business is discuss by every department and before the Town Board members speak.  The public may have questions that they want clarified based on information that they heard at the last Board meeting.  Sadly they don’t know what has transpired between that meeting and the current one.

This is ludicrous. How can the public ask questions about the agenda when the topics on the agenda aren’t discussed until after the public speaks and before they have any knowledge of what is going to be discussed by the Town Board and every Department such as Highway, Engineering and the rest of the departments on this night.

The second time the public can ask questions is at the end of the meeting.  At that time the Town Board will not answer questions but tell you, you will be answered by e-mail or other methods.

The Town Board arranged the agenda this way so the meeting would not run long.  I believe this is a not an example of transparency but a way to keep secrets and hold the people in the dark.

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Complaint Accuses County Democrats of Illegally Conspiring With Statewide Union

Marc Panepinto defeated incumbent Republican Mark J. Grisanti in 2014 for the 60th District State Senate seat, but is not seeking a second term. (John Hickey/Buffalo News file photo)
Marc Panepinto defeated incumbent Republican Mark J. Grisanti in 2014 for the 60th District State Senate seat, but is not seeking a second term.

An investigation into the 2014 campaign for State Senate may intensify as a new complaint has been lodged against the Erie County Democratic Committee charging illegal coordination with a statewide union.

Buffalo attorney Peter A. Reese, who is often at odds with local party leadership, has asked the Erie County district attorney and the state Board of Elections to seek an “investigation and possible prosecution of election law violations” in connection with a $60,000 contribution from the Communications Workers of America.

The bulk of that money, Reese contends, was funneled into the campaign of Democrat Marc C. Panepinto, who already is mentioned in two separate probes of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political operation and its 2014 efforts to elect a Democratic majority in the Senate.
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Lawsuit Accuses IDA Board Member Marconi of ‘clear bias’

Lord Amhers Construction

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Lord Amherst Hotel has been under construction for years.

It’s been delayed by financing, community push-back against Amherst Industrial Development Agency, town’s economic development.

Now, there’s a new hurdle: a lawsuit that calls into question the AIDA’s board for conflict of interest, failure to follow state law and ethics violations.

Tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars has been spent on trying to prevent the Lord Amherst Hotel from coming to fruition. Much of it started in 2012, outspoken Snyder resident Michele Marconi, at the helm of opposition.

She finds herself at the center of the controversy yet again, except now, she’s a member of AIDA.

The AIDA is being sued by the property’s developer, Iskalo, which issues a strong opinion of its case.
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Parkhaven Drive Home Damaged in Amherst Fire Monday Afternoon


A house fire on Parkhaven Drive in the Town of Amherst caused $150,000 damage Monday afternoon.

According to Amherst Fire Control, a passer-by called 911 after seeing the back of the home located at 167 Parkhaven Drive on fire. The caller stayed on the line with fire dispatchers while another passer-by alerted the lone occupant of the home.

Firefighters from the Ellicott Creek Fire Co. were on the scene within four minutes, fire officials said. Firefighters confirmed that the occupant was out of the home, and worked to bring the fire under control.

Within half an hour of arrival, the fire was brought under control, officials said. Fire crews, however, stayed on the scene performing overhaul and salvage work.
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Option to Extend Youngs Road is Put Back in Amherst Master Plan


An unfunded option to extend Youngs Road north from Casey Road to French Road in Amherst has been put back in the town’s comprehensive master plan.

Democrats on the Town Board voted, 3-2, Monday in favor of restoring the option, which had long been included in various versions of the town’s master plan dating from 1955. It was removed from the current master plan in February 2015 by the town’s previous Republican majority.

When the new Democratic majority was installed this year, it voted to have the Planning Department explore reintroducing to the master plan an option to someday pursue an extension of Youngs.

A majority of speakers during an April 19 public hearing on amending the master plan spoke out against reintroducing the concept of extending Youngs, arguing that it would bring unwanted development, destroy the character of the surrounding neighborhood and divert traffic from Transit Road to Casey.
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Bit”z” of New”z” From Andy Borowitz

Andy Borowitz
by Andy Borowitz

1) His pretending to be his own publicist
2) His marital history
3) Trump University
4) The size of his hands

1) Similarities to Hitler

There is enough in Donald Trump’s past to to disqualify him for a job at Kinko’s.

I don’t understand why the media are digging up decades-old tape of Trump being a pathological liar when they could just use something he said today.

Dan Quayle has announced that he will support Donald Trump. This is historically significant, because Quayle contributed to the steady lowering of the bar that has made Trump possible.

It’s a good thing Mexico will pay for that giant wall because it doesn’t sound like Trump contributes much in the way of taxes.

It’s not that Trump supporters are ignorant of how horrible he is, it’s that his horribleness is precisely what they like about him.

Some people say they would only vote for Hillary if she were running against the worst person in the world. Obviously this is good news for her.

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Many in Nation Tired of Explaining Things to Idiots

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Many Americans are tired of explaining things to idiots, particularly when the things in question are so painfully obvious, a new poll indicates.

According to the poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, while millions have been vexed for some time by their failure to explain incredibly basic information to dolts, that frustration has now reached a breaking point.

Of the many obvious things that people are sick and tired of trying to get through the skulls of stupid people, the fact that climate change will cause catastrophic habitat destruction and devastating extinctions tops the list, with a majority saying that they will no longer bother trying to explain this to cretins.

Coming in a close second, statistical proof that gun control has reduced gun deaths in countries around the world is something that a significant number of those polled have given up attempting to break down for morons.

Finally, a majority said that trying to make idiots understand why a flag that symbolizes bigotry and hatred has no business flying over a state capitol only makes the person attempting to explain this want to put his or her fist through a wall.

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