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Board rescinds public comment session

SARDINIA—At its January meeting, the Sardinia Town Board announced there would be no public comment session at meetings. The decision came after Supervisor Beverly Gambino said the sessions had been taken advantage of by the public.

“Residents were talking about things that don’t have to do with the town board,” Gambino said. “They’re coming in … bashing their neighbors or discussing things I don’t have jurisdiction on.”

According to the Open Meetings Law, there is no law requiring the governing body to allow public participation. If the board does choose to allow the public to speak, however, it has to allow all people the same guidelines.

Gambino said the board felt the public comment session often took the board off topic and most times included complaints the board couldn’t resolve. Despite taking the session off the agenda, the public will still be allowed to speak during meetings.

“I always allow the public to speak … they can ask questions if they have them,” Gambino said. “We’re not silencing people … we’re just trying to get a control on it. People are using the platform not for what it’s intended.”

She also said the public can contact herself or the town clerk the Friday before a meeting to be asked to be put on the agenda. Topics that can be addressed by the town board will be allowed to be added, if the topic isn’t board-necessary, it will be addressed outside of the meeting.

“Somehow we have to get control,” she said. “We just have to weed out what doesn’t need to be discussed or what doesn’t pertain to the town business.”

Gambino understands there can be misunderstandings on why the board rescinded the session, but said the board is walking a fine line on allowing topics to be discussed while maintaining control of the meeting direction. She added she hadn’t had a public comment session when she was elected, but was persuaded by different councilmen to add it back into the meetings.

“We’re trying to set better rules, so the board isn’t going off in different directions,” she said. “We’re not trying to take anything away, just trying to make it better.”

Residents, she said, can always call her office to speak with her regarding issues within the town. The town hall is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. If she’s not in her office, Town Clerk Jennifer Bray can get a hold of her.

“I’m here,” she said. “Pick up the phone and call me. Don’t let a month go by then show up at a town meeting.”

The Sardinia Town Hall can be reached at 496-8900. The next town board meeting is Thursday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sardinia Town Hall, 12320 Savage Road.

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