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Vienna: A tale of two meetings

The Vienna town board held two meetings last week: one public, one secret.

Supervisor P. Michael Piper met April 17 with board members Steven Carpenter and Marilyn Holman, assessor Dean Burth and John Widiker of the state Office of Real Property Services. Notice was not given the public or press, and no clerk was present.

According to New York state's Open Meetings Law, whenever there is a meeting of a quorum of a public board, there must be advance public notice, and minutes must be kept.

"Three out of five? Then it was a meeting of the town board," said Robert Freeman, executive director of the state's Committee on Open Government. "Three out of five is a quorum. I don't see how it can't be considered a board meeting. The Open Meetings Law requires meetings be open to the public."

The meeting began at 9:30 a.m., according to town Clerk Nicol Baker, and ended about an hour later. Baker was not privy to the meeting, and no minutes were recorded. Board members Nicole Pilcher and Richard Collins also were not invited.

"I didn't even know about it until I saw people coming in this morning," Baker said.

When asked why she was not invited, Baker said she didn't know.

"[That's a] good question," Baker said. "The town clerk is supposed to take minutes of every meeting, and the town clerk was not invited to this meeting."

Piper said the meeting was the first of many about a much-needed town-wide reevaluation.

"No," Piper said when asked if the meeting was publicized. "Who cares? You mean I can't meet with the assessor?"

Was the meeting illegal?

"It could be," Burth said. "A lot of things are that way. Any court, any town board operates any way they want to, and that's the way it is," he said.

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