Last Thursday, October 13, the Sidney NY town board unanimously approved a controversial natural gas pipeline project. But even if you were sitting in the front row you wouldn’t have been able to hear the roll call vote. That’s because outraged citizens were chanting “delay the vote!”
To say the town board meeting was unruly would be an understatement. Part of that is due to the refusal of town supervisor Bob McCarthy to move the public meeting to a larger venue. A full fifteen minutes before the meeting was gaveled to order, the room was crowded, with more people waiting in the hallway. Many citizens begged McCarthy to move the meeting to a larger room, upstairs, that would accommodate the people who wished to attend their town board meeting.
In a clear violation of NY’s open meeting law McCarthy refused. He cited recent knee surgery, and then later simply said, “no; I don’t want to [move the meeting].” The result: 75 or more people crammed into a room with a 52-person occupancy.
Then, after calling the meeting to order McCarthy immediately tossed the agenda aside and called for a vote on the pipeline project. The proposal – to provide a 50-year franchise to Leatherstocking Gas Co. for a gas pipeline through Sidney, Coventry, and Bainbridge and eventually connecting with the Millennium pipeline and eastern ports – has been a point of controversy all summer long.
Without allowing for any discussion, McCarthy called for a vote. Residents immediately protested, chanting “delay the vote!” and “illegal meeting!” Most of the meeting was met with angry outbursts and citizens shouting down town council members. At one point McCarthy makes a show of calling the police on his cell phone. The single officer who responded simply stayed in the meeting to ensure that some semblance of order was kept.