NEWS

Victor village board admits meeting was improper

Jessica Pierce

The Village Board held a special meeting Tuesday morning to undo the actions of a meeting the night before that state officials said was illegal.

Trustees Larry Rhodes and Tim Maher, Deputy Mayor Jack Marren and Village Attorney Reid A. Holter met at about 11 a.m. at the Village Hall and deemed the meeting 15 hours earlier void because the board did not give any public notice beforehand, as required by state law.

“If it wasn’t a clear violation of the open-meetings law, it at least carried the impression that what we did was not appropriate,” Holter said.

Rhodes, Maher and Marren voted unanimously to rescind Monday night’s meeting; Trustee Gary Hadden could not attend the meeting, nor could Mayor John Holden, who is out of town this week. Holden was not at the meeting Monday night.

After deciding to rescind Monday’s meeting, the board on Tuesday went into executive session to talk about a possible lawsuit over an upcoming Route 96 bridge-replacement project. The board has decided to join in an Article 78 proceeding to try and force the state to conduct a more thorough environment review. But the filing of the court papers has been put on hold while village, town and Farmington officials try to negotiate an out-of-court agreement with the state Department of Transportation.

The deadline for that agreement was to expire at noon Tuesday. The board called the emergency meeting Monday because last-minute, needed information was received and needed to be mulled over before the noon deadline, Holter explained. At the end of the executive session Monday, the board went into public session and authorized Marren to sign an agreement on behalf of the village — that is, if one is reached. The deadline for the end of negotiations with the Department of Transportation was postponed to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Holter said.

At the follow-up board meeting Tuesday, Marren was again authorized to sign the paperwork if a deal is reached.

Holter said he takes responsibility for the apparently illegal meeting Monday night, and he expressed regret to the board at the follow-up meeting Tuesday. “I told them I was sorry I had not strongly expressed an opinion with respect to the meeting or, more important, that I had not notified (the press).”

Camille Jobin-Davis, assistant director for the state’s committee on open government, said Tuesday that the meeting Monday would have been perfectly legal had a village official made efforts to notify the media and hang a flier in a public place mere minutes beforehand. A section of the law says notifications must be made “to the extent practicable” covers times when boards have to hold emergency meetings such as in this case, Jobin-Davis said.

“The law requires notice of all meetings,” she said, later adding, “I am glad to hear that now they understand that they have to provide notice on every occasion when a quorum gathers (and) the discussion of public business occurs.”

Jessica Pierce can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 250, or at jpierce@mpnewspapers.com.