Against Mayor Maura Spery’s wishes, the Mastic Beach village board set a public hearing Wednesday night to determine if there is cause to fire a planning board member for helping collect signatures to disband the village.
Spery said removing Fred Krage, 62, from the planning board because he aided in the petition to dissolve the village would be a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Village Attorney J. David Eldridge agreed at the work session.
“The board has a right to protect all the citizens and they took an oath to do so,” he said. “Anybody can walk around and hand out anything. And if people on the board don’t like it, that’s their problem.”
A fiery exchange between Spery and village trustee Joseph Johnson ensued over the issue.
“Your basic premise is what?” Spery asked Johnson.
“What is the job of the planning board?” Johnson responded. “The planning board plans the future village. He’s not planning for the future. That’s a conflict of interest.”
During the exchange, Spery said each member of the board swore to uphold the Constitution, which she read in part.
“That’s a federal right,” Spery said of Krage’s actions. “All American citizens have the right to petition the government. He’s done nothing wrong.”
Johnson responded to Spery: “You weren’t in my law school.”
He then insisted on the hearing.
The board approved the public hearing with a 3-1 vote. The hearing is expected to take place in October.
Krage, who was appointed to the planning board five years ago., sat quietly in the back during the exchange.
“It’s ridiculous,” Krage said after the meeting. “My intent was to provide a service for the people to speak. It’s a protected right.”
Trustee Anne Snyder also chimed in during the discussion.
“We want to see how the public feels, that’s all,” Snyder said.
Last week, village resident Bob Miller submitted more than 1,500 signatures to village Clerk Susan Alevas asking for a referendum vote to dissolve Mastic Beach. Alevas has until Friday to certify the signatures.