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Hearing on plan affecting Southampton town officials

Southampton Town Hall is shown.

Southampton Town Hall is shown. (Credit: Erin Geismar)

Southampton’s town board will hold a hearing Tuesday on a proposal by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming that would make it illegal for members of the town’s Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals or Conservation Board to serve as an official of a local political party or to be a member of any local, county or state political party committee.

She first proposed the change to the town code of ethics last fall, but the town board decided that it was not appropriate to discuss such a change during the political season.

Fleming said she could not give an example of undue political influence on those boards, but noted that more than half of the 21 members of those three boards were officials of local political parties.

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Her amendment to the town code of ethics — which will be the subject of a public hearing Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Town Hall — states that banning local political officials from those committees would broaden opportunities for public participation and “eliminate conflicts of interest which may arise when appointed officials vested with significant decision-making authority are simultaneously subject to the demands of both the community and their political parties.”

Under the town’s code of conduct, town attorneys and members of the town police department are already banned from serving as officers of political parties.

The members of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Conservation Board are all appointed by the town board. The Conservation Board has a special role in town government — its members visit hundreds of sites each year proposed for development, and recommend to the town board what conservation measures should be imposed to protect natural resources.

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