Board says it was cut out on super's decision to broadcast meetings
Members of the Bethlehem Town Board are crying foul over Supervisor Sam Messina's decision to enter into a contract to provide Internet broadcast of Town Board meetings without consulting them.
Messina signed a contract and purchase order Friday, May 21, with Ronkonkoma-based company IQM2 to provide Internet broadcast and archiving of Town Board meetings. The contract is for $410 per month, and a startup cost of $12,000 for equipment and training was also authorized.
The money would come from a $20,000 fund under the supervisor's budget for other contractual services, which Messina said was allocated for interns and communications work but would better serve the community this way.
"I moved forward with implementing a very cost-effective system that does what I've said I'd do for over a year now," Messina said. "This is good open government. It's what I said I would do, and I've done it."
Other members of the Town Board said they were not aware of the initiative until Messina announced it in a press release, and they questioned Messina's authority to go forward with the contract.
"It puts the town in a particularly interesting place when a contract for something that normally has to be approved by the board is approved by one person," Councilman Mark Hennessey said. "Unilateral action like this is beyond what I think is legal."
"It's $18,000, which is taxpayer money, and without getting board approval for this action and without it being approved in the budget, it's an illegal act," said Councilman Mark Jordan. "As a taxpayer, I'm offended by this."
Town Attorney James Potter said department heads are authorized to expend budgeted funds when they see fit without going to the board for approval, but they must buy what was budgeted for.