Boo ban lifted at Riverhead town board meetings

Riverhead Town Hall is at 200 Howell Ave. Riverhead Town Hall is at 200 Howell Ave. Photo Credit: Carl Corry

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It's OK again to boo at Riverhead Town board meetings, but only if you do it politely.

The town board, which earlier this month instituted the boo ban as part of a new formal policy aimed at ensuring decorum at its meetings, voted 4-1 Tuesday night to strike from its regulations the offending passage about booing.

But the board retained another part of its code prohibiting disruptive behavior and disruptive demonstrations.

No explanation was given on how to boo without being disruptive. There was, in fact, no public comment on the change at all.

Town officials said the ban drew national attention, after a Newsday story was picked up by The Associated Press and went viral online.

Town board members had different views on the short-lived prohibition.

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"It's stupid," said Councilman Jim Wooten, the only member to vote against adopting the new version of town board rules and procedures. He had also been the only member to vote against the original rules adopted on March 5.

"I wanted to be consistent," he said Wednesday, adding that the town supervisor should be able to keep order at a meeting without written rules.

Supervisor Sean Walter called the fuss that followed the board's initial action silly, but he defended the intent of the rules. "I won't let one town resident disrupt another one," he said. "There are regulations similar to this one in towns across the state."

Also stricken from the new version is a ban on "disruptive" signs. The old ban offered no definition of what constituted a "disruptive" sign. Much of the discussion that ensued revolved around size.

The new code does, however, contain an escape clause -- a provision that allows those same rules to be temporarily suspended by a majority of the town board members present and voting.

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