The two Democratic members of the Huntington Town Board are pressing Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci to open early budget meetings to the public, but the administration is pushing back.
Council members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol say that Lupinacci promised transparency in the budget process. They said that board members were initially invited to the early meetings with department heads but the invitation was then withdrawn because the administration was concerned that the attendance by three or more Town board members would violate the state Open Meetings Law. Cergol and Cuthbertson said the solution to that would be to give public notice of the meetings.
Lupinacci, however, said the law gave him sole responsibility for producing a budget that would then be presented to the Town Board and Town Clerk on Sept. 30. “It is not the Town Board’s role – and frankly it would be improper – to participate in this governmental function that the law specifically mandates be the Supervisor’s responsibility,” he said.
“I am releasing this statement to express my extreme disappointment with Councilman Cuthbertson and Councilwoman Cergol’s grandstanding statement to the press about the Town of Huntington budget process. In their joint statement, they demanded that I violate Chapter 10 of the Huntington Town Code and Article 8, Chapter 103 of New York State Town Law. Town Board members have a defined role in the budget process but that role only begins after the Supervisor presents a budget to the Town Board and Town Clerk as is required by statute.
Cergol and Cuthbertson say that board members were invited to the meetings with department heads in the past.
“Citizens face challenging household budget decisions every day,” Cergol said. “Watching government discuss and navigate similar dilemmas would promote budget transparency and public understanding of a complex process.”
Cuthbertson added, “Supervisor Lupinacci seems to have forgotten his campaign pledge to open up the operations of government to public review and participation. Instead, as witnessed at our last town board meeting, we have seen jobs for insiders filled by resolutions prepared in secret and budget meeting invitations to board members cancelled based on a legal technicality. Given the secretive way that jobs have been created and filled by this administration and their significant impact on budget, now more than ever it is critical that we invite more scrutiny to our budget process.” Cuthbertson said.
Lupinacci said, “This administration has been very open and transparent. We’ve made Town Board meetings more accessible to residents by adding evening meetings to the daytime meeting schedule, almost doubling the number of meetings the Town holds each year, and started live-streaming meetings, though the capability to do so was there prior to my taking office. We’ve done a great job communicating the scheduling of public hearings on major projects around the town, and made it a priority to listen to the concerns of our residents. The Town has also done an excellent job being responsive on social media where a lot of conversation occurs on important Town matters.”
A public hearing on the preliminary budget is set Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. at Town Hall.