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Mastic Beach trustees question role of code enforcement officers

The Mastic Beach Village board, mired in squabbles over finances that have cast a cloud over the future of the village, wants code enforcement officers out in the street rather than watching over meetings.

Board members debated over the presence of an officer at Wednesday’s public work session despite recent board meetings that were marred with shouting from people in the audience.

“With all due respect, why is he here?” village trustee Joseph Johnson asked Mayor Maura Spery, referring to a code enforcement officer who was standing guard as public comment was set to start.

“Because I get to direct employees,” Spery said.

Her response started a lengthy exchange between members on the dais. For his part, Johnson said the board had recently agreed to have code enforcement officers patrol the village more vigorously, issuing citations and tickets as a revenue generator.

That move came as the board, on April 29, adopted a $3.89 million 2016-17 budget that includes layoffs set to begin later this month to its small workforce. Currently, the village has one full-time and five part-time code enforcement officers.

Residents can also expect a yet-be-be announced bond note to pay for the village overspending on a road project by $430,000.

“You think it’s more financially prudent for him to be standing here?” Johnson said to Spery.

The code enforcemnt officer remained silent and watched as the discussion continued.

While recent Mastic Beach meetings have been unusually acrimonious, other more calm villages routinely have a public safety officer at their meetings.

“In Mastic Beach, it would be prudent to have some type of public safety there. It’s very appropriate, especially considering the volatility,” Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said in a Thursday interview. “The village of Mastic Beach is going through a tumultuous time. It’s more valuable to be there than looking for code violations.”

The Village of Bellport doesn’t have code enforcement officers at its meetings.

“If we think there’s going to be a situation where there would be a physical altercation we will, but if not, no,” Bellport Mayor Ray Fell said. “If someone doesn’t feel safe, then code enforcement should be there.”

As the discussion between the Mastic Beach board members wore on, village attorney Guy Germano was asked for his opinion on the mayor’s position that it is her call on whether to have a code enforcement officer stand guard at board meetings.

“It is her duty to direct the employees,” Germano said, adding “I have never seen any public meeting where” some type of safety official wasn’t there.

“It’s a safety issue,” Germano concluded.

The meeting ended with no final decision on whether code enforcement will be a presence at future meetings.

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