Editorial | When dereliction of duty is a public official’s best defense, you know voters are in trouble.

A story in the Southampton Press this week caught our attention and deserves your attention – and your outrage.

After a Hampton Bays resident successfully sued the town of Southampton over its environmental review of an overlay district for the hamlet – she argued the town was failing to comply with the review act’s requirements of the state’s environmental quality – the city council has signed a new six-figure contract with the same consultancy, Nelson Pope Voorhis, to redo it.

It’s bad enough. But that’s not the outrageous part.

The new contract sets out the consultant’s “scope of work” and the first task of the scope of work is “community outreach”. This should mean reaching out to the community to hear residents’ questions, concerns and ideas.

But not this contract. The “Community Outreach” task is described like this:

“As we move forward in the process of meeting with the community and various stakeholders, we will be able to clarify any burning opposition issues. We will seek to neutralize this by making them appear as traditional NIMBYs who constantly present misinformation to promote their own limited agenda and present a positive message through community leaders.

These consultants not only said the quiet part out loud, they wrote it down.

It’s outrageous – and sad. Over the years, we have seen too many members of various city councils show this kind of contempt for residents who take the time to attend meetings and hearings to voice their opinions. We have seen some Riverhead Town and school district officials pouting at voters, rolling their eyes, looking visibly bored, holding side conversations, and sometimes even chiding residents who dare to step on the podium to question or criticize their actions – and sometimes even just say they shut up and sit down.

The arrogance on display can take your breath away.

So it’s hardly surprising that some board members want to “neutralize” opposition from people they derisively call NIMBYs, who they say “constantly present misinformation to promote their own agenda. limit”.

The shock is to see this goal in writing as part of the contracted scope of work for a consulting firm responsible for “community outreach”.

Anyone who thinks of voter participation in government in this way does not understand the concept of public service, has an inflated ego, and does not deserve the public trust of holding elected or appointed office or the honor of the title of public servant. Period.

It should be noted that city officials in question say they did not notice this provision on the scope of work — although it is the first paragraph on the first page of the document — which has already been signed. When dereliction of duty is a public servant’s best defense, you know their constituents are in trouble.

Furthermore, any consulting firm that thinks “community outreach” means neutralizing opposition to the pre-arranged outcome of their “review” of a zoning ordinance, does not deserve a six-figure consulting contract – let alone least a second contract after their review. the first time did not pass the course with a court.

Clearly, Southampton City Council wants to do what it wants to do regarding the overlay ward and the ‘review’ by its council firm is going to lead to predetermined conclusions. With the scripted “neutralization” of the opposition – at public expense, no less – the review will certainly not be the objective “rigorous scrutiny” required by the Environmental Quality Review Act of the Environment. ‘State.

Together, city officials and consultants flout state law.

An important aspect of this scenario is the revolving door through which consulting firms enter and exit City Hall. One month, a consultant like Nelson Pope Voorhis could do an environmental study for the city at taxpayers’ expense and, shortly thereafter, prepare an environmental impact statement on behalf of a developer who has a claim pending before the city. . And between the two will probably contribute significant sums to the campaign accounts of local elected officials.

Everything is going very well, thank you very much.

Except, perhaps, for the taxpayers who foot the bill – the people who fund the salaries and benefits of government officials, the fees of consulting firms, and the costs resulting from development by outside interests who benefit from the zoning codes that the city pays the consultants to justify – uh, review.

The developers are leaving town. Consultants move on to the next contract. Civil servants retire and receive their state-funded pensions. And generations of taxpayers must pay for impacts that have never been honestly and thoroughly assessed as required by law: water pollution, traffic jams, overcrowded classrooms, increased public safety costs, and more.

Because that’s what happens when the public interest is ignored, citizens are ignored and opposition is neutralized. And it happens all the time.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family business. You rely on us to stay informed, and we rely on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to provide this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

Comments are closed.