Putnam Will Keep Audio Meetings, Citing Attack

Also, legislators laud Sheriff’s Department

The Putnam County Legislature said this week it would continue to meet only by audio connection during the pandemic state of emergency, rather than using the video conference employed by most other government panels, because of concerns about hackers.

Legislator Toni Addonizio of Kent, who chairs the Legislature, on Tuesday (March 2) cited last week’s attack on a Philipstown Town Board workshop and similar incidents in which interlopers have displayed pornographic or racist material during local meetings.

Elected officials in New York are allowed to meet by audio or video connection without taking public input through at least March 24, the latest expiration date of an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that suspends many requirements of the Open Meetings Law.

Last month, Legislator Nancy Montgomery, a Democrat who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, urged the Legislature to scrap its often-creaky audio-meeting system in favor of video conferencing that allows public participation.

Addonizio said that the intrusion in Philipstown “justifies and supports the platform we have been using. We believe the platform security is most important and that is our priority.”

Addonizio said she had contacted officials in Dutchess, Rockland, Westchester and Orange counties and found all are “facing challenges” with virtual meetings and that “not all the platforms are equally secure.”

Deputies honored

The Legislature issued a proclamation honoring deputies for putting “the safety of Putnam County above themselves,” referring to an incident in January 2020 incident in which Deputy Ben Levine was slashed after responding to a domestic dispute in Putnam Valley.

The proclamation singled out Levine, his partner, Randel Hill and Deputy Andrew Kristan, who the county said provided Levine with “critical medical attention.”

Nearly every month, Addonizio, representing the Legislature, and County Executive MaryEllen Odell issue proclamations honoring individuals or groups. Montgomery said on Wednesday that she had asked Addonizio to recognize the deputies and Addonizio and Odell agreed. The proclamation also salutes “the Sheriff’s Department for their daily commitment” to the public.

In January in a brief ceremony at the Sheriff’s Department substation in Nelsonville, Langley presented the three officers with statements of appreciation from Montgomery and Legislator Bill Gouldman of Putnam Valley. State Sen. Peter Harckham, a Democrat whose district includes eastern Putnam, brought state commendations.

State of the County

The State of the County address that Odell usually delivers each spring has been postponed because of pandemic restrictions on gatherings.

Instead, a special meeting of the Legislature has been scheduled for Thursday (March 11) at which Odell will present the Legislature with written materials that “satisfy the requirements of the Putnam County Charter,” according to a county statement. She said her theme will be “2021, A Year of Hope and Health.”

“This is the second year in a row that COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to change our plans,” Odell said in the statement. “I’m disappointed. This special meeting always gives us a chance to get together with residents, employees, union leaders, department heads and others and bring everyone up to speed. Still, we must put safety first.”

To register for the livestream, see putnamcountyny.com/legi.

2 thoughts on “Putnam Will Keep Audio Meetings, Citing Attack

  1. Our Putnam County legislators have shown their true colors with this latest decision to do their dirty deeds under cover of COVID darkness. Their fear of being found out by the unwary taxpayers has been alleviated by the greater fear and panic that has been instilled in the populace in the past year during which the courts, schools and government agencies have undergone some kind of lockdown.

    It is very easy to avoid “Zoom bombing,” as I know from my own meetings. Just use a password or get one of the highly paid tech geniuses in the employ of the county to figure it out for you.

    That is really a lame excuse to not have even a video meeting when actually the legislature should be having live meetings attended by the public and televised.

    Anything less than that is bad government at its worst.

  2. If the Putnam County Legislature really cared about democracy and citizen participation, its members could learn how to video conference properly. Every other county, city, town and organization in New York State has figured it out. Watch a training video. Take an online class. Buy a subscription to a secure platform. Name one person to manage the meeting with registration for speaking time. If kids can do it for learning, adults should be able to do it for governing.