Town zeroing in on attachment release procedure

A proposal that would establish a standard procedure for the prior release of information pertaining to Bethlehem Town Board meetings may be nearing completion.

Involved parties say they're largely satisfied with the most recent draft of the policy, which stipulates the attachments for a meeting memos and other information distributed to board members dealing with agenda items would be posted on the town's Website two days before Town Board meetings (this would be a Monday for regular meetings).

Provisions are included to prevent the release of personal information, trade secrets, contract information or other confidential documents. The town clerk would make final decisions.

Councilman Mark Hennessey has been spearheading the effort to bring attachments to the public, and while this latest version has been scaled back from his original plan, he said he feels it's a solid proposal.

"This is the first step in creating a greater sense of communication and openness with town residents," he said.

The agenda attachment issue has been the subject of debate for several months now. It came to the foreground when Hennessey posted many of the attachments pertaining to an April meeting on his own Website. At the time, Supervisor Sam Messina said he was displeased with the move, saying a procedure should be put in place for the release of documents. He also had concerns about protecting confidential information and not placing a burden on town staff, who would have to review and release the documents.

But this proposal, which has been vetted with other board members, town staff and the town attorney, is the way to go about it, he said. It calls for a worksheet that would allow department heads to easily show the town clerk what type of documents they are submitting, streamlining the process of reviewing lengthy memos and reports.

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