The town's Citizens Advisory Committees received a stern letter on Monday, reminding them of their roles.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson told the chairs of the five hamlet-based groups they are only to report to the East Hampton Town Board. "The CAC's were formed to assist the town board by being the "eyes and ears" for the community. Recently, however, some CAC's actions have gone from advising to advocating," he wrote.
Wilkinson was specifically referring to a letter the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee sent to Councilman Dominick Stanzione, its new liaison, about . The letter carbon copied Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Ken LaValle on, to which Thiele replied and carbon copied the town.
"I had a ready answer for them," Thiele said, because, he had been drafting legislation on the issue already. A former supervisor of the Town of Southampton who started advisory committees during his tenure there, he agreed their primary function is to advise the town board.
When he received Montauk CAC's letter, he thought the town was in the loop given that the letter had been sent to a town board member in the first place. "It didn't raise any red flag with me," he said.
However, he said, "I won't say sometimes CACs get a little afield of what their mission is." But, he said, when there's a county or state issue at hand, it isn't out of the ordinary for him to hear from those committees.
The supervisor first brought the issue up at the town board work session on Feb. 28.
In the letter, he also referred to the committees creating agendas that target a particular individual or business, emailing members of the committee to encourage they attend court hearings "in an attempt to exert influence on how a particular matter is prosecuted and its ultimate disposition," as well as "sending ex parte letters to a sitting judge pertaining to a matter presently being heard by that judge."
He also mentioned members had been sending letters to the planning and zoning boards urging denials of specific applications.
"Such actions by a CAC are beyond the scope of the authority of the CAC," he said.
Wilkinson said the town board agreed that the groups, whose members are appointed by the town board, are advisory only. He wrote, "The CACs are not authorized to advocated nor to communicate with other agencies in town or outside of town in an official acts as a CAC taking or advocating for any position."
When asked to comment on the letter, Montauk's chairwoman Lisa Grenci said, "According to that letter neither myself or the citizens of the committee can comment, except to the Town Board."
Last week, Grenci wrote in an email that, "The MCAC is thrilled and encouraged that our Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle have already identified the need for legislation concerning and regulating formula stores and look forward to helping them enact such legislation. The MCAC encourages the East Hampton Town Board to take heed and follow their lead."
A 2005 resolution offered by then councilwoman Debra Foster laid out the groups' responsibilities included educating town board liaisons concerning issues of interest, increase communication between the town board and the public, and make advisory statements to the town board.
It reads, "No committee or individual member should contact department heads and direct them to do any work for the committee . . . If the Town Board agrees to the work to be done, the appropriate department head will be notified."