PoliticsThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Siegel Accuses Town Board of Violating Open Meetings Law

We are part of The Trust Project
Former Supervisor Susan Siegel is running for an empty seat on the town board.

Yorktown Town Board candidate Susan Siegel is accusing current board members of violating the New York State Open Meetings Law by discussing spending taxpayer money behind closed doors.

Siegel, a former town supervisor and councilwoman, maintained on June 4 the board voted to spend just over $1 million in two separate resolutions without any prior discussion in open session.

“The issue isn’t what the money is being spent on,” Siegel said. “The issue is that decisions to spend taxpayer money must be discussed in an open session meeting. It’s the law.”

The first resolution mentioned by Siegel was for $478,000 to purchase body cameras for the Yorktown Police Department that was based on a discussion dating back to 2021. The second resolution for $539,000 modified the initial estimated amount the town will contribute toward improvements to the Route 118-Underhill Avenue intersection that is part of the Underhill Farm development.

Siegel, who is running for an open seat on the board in a special election on July 23, also expressed concern over the board’s failure to discuss how the remaining federal money will be spent.

“There doesn’t seem to be a carefully thought-out plan, at least not one that has been shared with residents,” Siegel said. “Instead, spending authorizations simply show up on the agenda and typically there’s no discussion. It appears that the board is making piecemeal decisions without any coherent plan.”

Meanwhile, Siegel alleged a third expenditure for $13,000 to update the 2018 Hallocks Mill report also appeared to be based on only executive session discussions.

“When did the board discuss this changed plan for Hallocks Mill sewers?” she said. “Do board members have any idea if the remaining 335 unsewered residents actually want to be sewered?”

Supervisor Ed Lachterman said Siegel should check the Open Meetings Law before accusing anyone of violations, calling it “the ultimate lack of transparency.”

“I personally speak with each of my board members on a one-on-one basis to update them of things that are coming before the town in our meetings. I share our agendas with them so that they can research and ask questions from each of the department heads if they have any,” he explained. “We are always careful in our closed sessions and we have our attorney present to make sure we do not cross any lines. I do keep an open-door policy for the public and my board members.”

On the police body cameras, Lachterman said the decision to purchase them was made “a long time ago” and was added to the PBA contract.

“It was delayed because we needed to finish some contractual obligations with the PBA. Discussions broke down but we finally were able to complete them,” he explained. “And for the record, those are labor negotiations so they do not go before the board meetings.”

Commenting on the Route 118-Underhill Avenue improvements, Lachterman said there were multiple meetings that addressed the traffic concerns on Underhill.

“I have set an expectation with my board members that they are to do the proper homework needed for any of the agenda issues,” Lachterman said. “When we come to the table with them, we are in position to either make a decision or request more time to discuss. As for transparency, our board puts out to the public all large purchases from (New York State) contract pricing, even though we do not have to. We feel that the public should know where we are spending their money.”

Examiner Media contacted the New York State Committee on Open Government for insight on Siegel’s claims. An attorney pointed to Section 105 of the law, which says upon a majority vote of the board, taken in an open meeting, a public body may conduct an executive session for specified purposes, provided “that no action by formal vote shall be taken to appropriate public moneys.”

Items that can be discussed in executive session include matters which will imperil public safety if disclosed; any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer; information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed; discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation; collective negotiations pertaining to a certain article in civil service law; the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a person or corporation or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a person or entity; the preparation, grading or administration of examinations; or the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities or sale or exchange of securities held by the public body.




We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.