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Southampton strikes compromise on 3 boards' seats

Southampton Town Hall is shown.

Southampton Town Hall is shown. Credit: Erin Geismar

The Southampton Town board has voted to allow no more than three members of any single political party to serve on the town's planning board, conservation board and zoning board of appeals.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, a Democrat, brought up the issue last month, saying she wanted to eliminate the perception of political influence, since political committee members pick the candidates for town board, who then select the members of the three independent, seven-member boards. The boards make decisions on land use and can modify provisions of the town code.

Her original proposal would have banned membership on the three boards to anyone who also serves as a political party official, or as a committee member of any local, county or state political party. But all four other members of the town board -- in a bipartisan agreement -- rejected her proposal on Tuesday and instead passed the compromise resolution.

While that prevents a political majority from serving on any one board, it does allow people to be appointed by town board members who ran on two party lines, such as Republican and Conservative.

Fleming said she would not continue fighting over the issue.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member who also ran on the Democratic Party line, said Fleming's resolution unfairly barred people from serving on a town board just because of their political activities.

She added that no one has shown that decisions of those three boards have been made because of political bias, and that members of those boards take an oath to serve the community.

"We take that oath very seriously," Throne-Holst said.

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