It had been advertised as a public hearing online and labeled as such on that night’s agenda, but when over 100 residents of Lake Success showed up at Village Hall on Monday at 7:30 p.m., village Attorney Andrea Curto told them it was not.
“This evening, the board is going to be considering the settlement of ExteNet’s litigation,” Curto, of the Uniondale-based firm Forchelli Deegan Terrana, told those gathered. “It’s not a public hearing, which is why we’re holding this informational session in here.”
Curto then introduced Edward Ross of the Garden City law firm Rosenberg, Calica and Birney, village counsel in Lake Success’ lawsuit against Illinois-based wireless infrastructure provider ExteNet Systems, and Michael Musso, a wireless communications expert and engineer from the Omaha, Nebraska-based firm HDR and consultant on the suit.
No court reporter was present, and, while Mayor Adam Hoffman jumped into the conversation multiple times during a question portion, none of the village’s six trustees, who would later vote on the settlement, were present during the meeting.
“This is not a public hearing, I just want to stress that again, but you will have an opportunity to ask any questions that you want,” Curto said before giving the floor to Ross and Musso.
Ross and Musso then spent over two hours explaining and answering questions from residents on a possible settlement to the lawsuit that would see seven cell nodes placed in the village instead of the 13 originally proposed. Nine of those initial nodes were rejected in May, and none of the four that were approved received a unanimous vote.
Over the course of the night, residents took issue with the nodes’ locations, appearance and possible health effects.
“We’re in a lawsuit. So what we’re trying to do here is sort of like off the record so people can understand,” Hoffman told Blank Slate Media shortly before the meeting Monday night.
Attorney Kristin O’Neill of New York State’s Department of State, an expert on the state’s open meetings law, said in a phone interview that while the meeting was not illegal under the law, the way it was phrased may have been “misleading.”
“They were under no legal obligation to have the hearing, so they called it a hearing, but it was a meeting subject to open meetings laws,” O’Neill said. “But it sounds more misleading, and it might lead to hard feelings.”
A call to the Village of Lake Success was not immediately returned.