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Plan banning pols on Southampton land use board fails

Republican Christine Preston Scalera is a Southampton Town

Republican Christine Preston Scalera is a Southampton Town councilwoman. (Aug. 4, 2011) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A proposal that would ban political committee members from serving on Southampton land use boards failed on a split vote yesterday, but might be resurrected after a new town board majority takes power in January, the resolution’s sponsor said.

Councilwoman Christine Scalera, a Republican, and Councilman Jim Malone, a Conservative, defeated the measure on a 2 to 2 vote.

Scalera said the amendment was “put forth in the interests of partisan, divisive, political gamesmanship.”

She said advocates had failed to put forward any law or issue that makes this a pressing concern.

Bridget Fleming, a Democrat and sponsor of the amendment, said there was a “circle of influence” between the political committee members who help nominate candidates for town council, and council members who appoint the boards.

Those boards have say over $65 billion in real estate, she said. “There’s a perception here,” Fleming said. “People have always thought that it’s an insider’s game, that they’re not part of it.”

Eleven of 21 members of Southampton’s planning, zoning board of appeals and conservation boards are Republican or Conservative Party Committee members, Fleming said.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst praised the current board members but supported the vote because, she said, of the perception of a conflict.

Malone said he was voting against it because he believed that board members could put the town's interests ahead of their parties. “I still believe in the better side of angels,” he said.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi, a Republican, was not present at yesterday’s meeting.

But the ban’s defeat might be short-lived. Brad Bender, an Independence Party member who ran for town council also on the Democratic line, spoke in favor of the resolution yesterday. He called it a step “toward transparency and open government.” He and Stan Glinka, a Republican, were leading the race for two open seats on the town council on Tuesday, as the Suffolk County Board of Elections was finishing counting absentee ballots.

Fleming, after the vote, promised to bring the resolution in January. — David Schwartz

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