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Huntington Town board to consider term limits for elected officials

Huntington town hall in Huntington is shown Sept. 2,

Huntington town hall in Huntington is shown Sept. 2, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

Huntington Town Board members on Thursday started the process toward term limits by setting a date for a public hearing on the issue.

The hearing is to consider limits for the terms of all elected officials in the town.

Board member Gene Cook presented the resolution that proposes the town supervisor, town board members, town clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent not serve more than three, four-year consecutive terms in the same elective office. The resolution to set the hearing passed in a unanimous 5-0 vote.

Cook, an Independence Party member, said he would have preferred two four-year terms but he had to compromise.

“It’s an important issue that I believe in,” Cook said. “I’ve believed in term limits since I got elected and I will take every opportunity to do it to get it done.”

Cook offered the same resolution in August, but it was defeated.

Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone, who leaves office at the end of this year after 22 years in the top job; board member Mark Cuthbertson, who was re-elected Tuesday; and board member Susan Berland, who was elected to the county legislature Tuesday — all Democrats — had voted against the August resolution while town board member Tracey Edwards, also a Democrat, who lost her bid for supervisor and whose term is up at the end of the year, had voted yes to that measure with Cook.

Petrone said Thursday that at one point he opposed term limits but has since reconsidered.

“Term limits bring movement; people can move to other places,” he said. “Like Susan just did to the county when there’s vacancies and there’s only a vacancy in the county because there’s a term limit.”

Cuthbertson and Berland said they agreed to the public hearing and will listen to what the public has to say about the issue.

Thursday’s vote comes after Tuesday’s election of Republicans Chad Lupinacci as supervisor and his running mate Ed Smyth to the town board. Their campaign had implementing terms limits as a top priority. They take office Jan. 1.

“While we appreciate the Town Board’s enthusiasm about term limits, we may better serve the public by passing a comprehensive ethics reform package beginning next term, which includes term limits for policy makers, among other initiatives which make government more transparent, accountable, and efficient for the people of Huntington,” Lupinacci wrote in an email.

In June, Cook surveyed residents on whether they wanted term limits, which elected officials they would apply to, and how long a term should last. The majority of responses said they supported term limits and they should apply to all elected officials, including the town clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent. The majority of respondents preferred two four-year terms.

In 2013, Cook introduced a resolution asking for a public hearing to consider term limits for members of the town board, but it did not get support from Democrats on the board.

The public hearing is set for Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The board has the option to vote on the measure at that meeting. If not, a vote must be taken within 90 days.

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