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ECFD stifles recordings of its meetings

Ends public comments
Mon Aug 8th, 2016

Photos by Carola Lott

At the East Clinton Fire Commissioner’s meeting on July 13, the chairwoman, Stephanie Bonk, directed the Deputy Sheriff assigned to the meeting to check whether Idan Sims, a member of the public who is a regular at these meetings, was recording the meeting on his cell phone.  She asked Sims, “Are you recording?” He answered, “No.”  She then asked the sheriff deputy to check his cell phone which he looked at.  The deputy confirmed that Sims was not recording.

There was no discussion of a new firehouse and there was no public comment period.  

After the adjournment and a request that the firehouse be cleared, members of the audience gathered outside the firehouse where the case of NY State Senator Sue Serino’s attempt to prevent a video being taken at a public meeting was discussed.  Her attempt was met with considerable press publicity and an apology from the Putnam County Sheriff.  It was established that recording a pubic meeting is a right under the Open Meetings Law of New York. In the Serino case, there was some question whether the meeting was “public” even though the public was invited by advertisements.  

The next meeting of the East Clinton Fire Commissioners is scheduled for Wednesday, August 10.   District voters may learn why the chairperson bars fellow commissioner Art Weiland from visiting the firehouse and inspecting the equipment.  

The East Clinton Fire District is charged a fee by the Dutchess County Sheriff for having a deputy on hand at its meetings.  The District levies a tax on property owners to fund the operations of the fire company and pay the district’s expenses.   

This report is based on interviews with members of the public who attended the ECFD meeting.