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Muttontown's new board, former trustee at odds over public comment, village law

In dispute is a recent work session vote on a software contract worth at least $53,000, and no bidding process, though the board says it did review three proposals.

Then-Trustee Julie Albernas during a meeting of the

Then-Trustee Julie Albernas during a meeting of the Village of Muttontown board on April 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

A former Muttontown village board member who lost her mayoral bid in June said the recently elected board is shutting out public participation in debates on major contracts, and violating village and state law on competitive bidding.

Julie Albernas cited the Sept. 12 village board meeting, at which she said the board barred public comment when trustees were discussing spending more than $78,000 for computer software and two years of maintenance.

“You cannot take a $53,000 contract without going out to a sealed bid,” Albernas said, referring to the approximate cost of the software.

Trustees reviewed three proposals but there was no bidding, acting Village Clerk Joe Russo said.

Village Attorney Keith Corbett said bidding was not required because it was an emergency measure and most of the contract is for professional services, which don’t require bids.

Malware and viruses have made current computer software and services “inaccessible to the current village administration … preventing the village from performing rudimentary municipal tasks,” Corbett said. The customized software and services are needed “to basically fix the issues from the previous administration.”

Albernas said "there were no issues with that software ... It was fully functioning."

The contract was awarded to Northfield, New Jersey-based Edmunds and Associates, whose written proposal to the village discusses the installation of software to perform functions such as tax billing but makes no mention of fixing or repairing infected software.

Charles Peck, a zoning board member, said he asked during the public comment period near the beginning of the meeting about bids but never received an answer. The board later went into a work session, when public comment is not allowed, at which trustees voted to approve the Edmunds proposal.

Albernas said the previous board always allowed public discussion of proposed contracts.

Russo said the three software proposals were available to the public in Village Hall a day or two before the meeting and afterward.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state's Committee on Open Government, said nothing in state law prohibits municipalities from barring public comments during meetings.

Oyster Bay Town, where Muttontown is located, allows public discussion of agenda items, including contracts. The nearby City of Glen Cove has work sessions without public comment but allows questions and comments during separate regular council meetings, when votes are taken.

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