Pelham Town Council meetings under attended because of ‘lack of transparency’

To the editor:

The Pelham Examiner recently published an article on the upcoming monthly Pelham Town Council meeting on Monday where the elected officials on the council shared a “state of the town address.” The timing of the state of the town address is curious, coming one month before a contested town council election, whereas a state of the town update previously had not been shared by the council since January 2017.

However, it is a step towards transparency for a group of elected officials whose meetings have typically gone unnoticed by the vast majority of Town of Pelham residents.

It is not apathy or lack of desire to be involved in town affairs that keep my fellow community members from attending the town meetings. It’s lack of transparency.

It is difficult to find out what will be discussed at the monthly council meeting as the agenda is not shared in advance.

Additionally, there is no audio or video recording of the meetings for community members to access if they can’t make the meeting.

Also, the town council convenes executive sessions during monthly council meeting where topics are discussed privately. The law clearly limits circumstances under which a public body may convene privately in executive session. The town council convenes executive sessions almost every meeting, significantly more often than comparable groups, without sufficient explanation.

Finally, meeting locations are moved without notice to the public.

The best practices of sharing agendas in advance and recording meetings are employed by both the Village of Pelham Trustees and the Village of Pelham Manor Trustees. I applaud both of these boards for their commitment to reaching as many of their constituents as possible, not just the ones for whom attending meetings is convenient.

To be more inclusive and transparent, I am asking the Town of Pelham Board to change their way of conducting business and employ the following:

1) Post the meeting agenda in advance of the monthly town council meeting. Indicate if there is an executive session planned.

2) Publicly provide access to audio and/or video recording of the monthly town council meeting for community members to easily access if they can’t join in person.

3) Provide public notice when a meeting is cancelled as well as when the location or date changes.

4) Leverage the Pelham Examiner and social media to let community members know when town council meetings are happening and what’s on the agenda.

5) Publicly share the audited Town of Pelham financial statements so that community members can review and understand the town council’s financial oversight for many of our important town services.

If the above information was publicly shared, more people in our town could get involved and be better informed. Pelham community members deserve to know about the work of our elected officials on the Town of Pelham Council, which carries out key duties, such as overseeing the recreation department, overseeing the library, overseeing the Daronco Town House facility and the town court system, and overseeing the town’s EMT fly car, among many other important tasks to keep our town safe and running smoothly.

Adopting the measures I’ve outlined above would increase line of sight into the governance of our town and would foster transparency about what this group of elected officials do on behalf of our community.

Tara Weishaupl

39 Sherwood Ave.