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Visitor screening relaxed at North Hempstead Town Hall, tightened in Islip

Visitors attending North Hempstead Town Board or zoning meetings no longer have to check in at the main floor security desk and produce a photo ID.

Officials reversed the policy of checking identification for people attending the meetings after considering an objection to the rule that East Hills resident Richard Brummel raised during the town board's Oct. 21 meeting.

Brummel said that having to sign in with a guard and produce photo identification seemed like a "heavy-handed" and "inappropriate" security measure for people who just want to participate in their local government. The council and zoning board are the only public meetings that take place at Town Hall. Visitors to Town Hall on other business still have to sign in.

"I found it to be quite responsive on this issue," he said of the town board. The policy "was kind of a barrier to participation."

North Hempstead's easing of town hall screening requirements comes as Islip Town officials tightened theirs.

Public safety officers stationed at a front desk in the first floor rotunda at Islip Town Hall in recent weeks have asked visitors for photo identification and the reason they were at the building, including for board meetings. Visitors' names are logged by the officer in a book.

Town spokeswoman Patricia Kaloski in a statement cited the "health, safety and well-being of Islip Town employees, residents and visitors" as a reason for the new measure.

The checks come after town officials conducted a three-year security analysis and increased security measures, Kaloski said without identifying other changes.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth told Brummel after his comments at the October meeting that the town policy would be reviewed. Officials did not issue public notification about the policy change, but town spokesman Ryan Mulholland said the sign in and photo ID requirements were lifted in late October.

The security policy had gone into effect under interim supervisor John Riordan, who held the position between the September 2013 resignation of former Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Bosworth's swearing-in last January.

Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin said that all Town Hall visitors previously had to sign in and show photo identification, from 9 a.m. until the building closed.

Botwin said in a Dec. 30 statement that officials sought a review of the policy by the state's Committee on Open Government and changed the policy.

"Our policy is constantly being reviewed so that we can best balance open government protocol with safety requirements for our staff and other visitors at Town Hall," she said.

The Committee on Open Government concluded "that residents should be able to attend a public meeting without identifying themselves," Mulholland said.

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