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Aug 19, 2008 1:10 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Village considers hiring outside counsel

Aug 19, 2008 1:10 PM

By Jessica DiNapoli

The Westhampton Beach Village Board this week approved a resolution that permits Village Attorney Bo Bishop to look into hiring outside counsel to help research constitutional issues relating to the proposed religious boundary in the village.

Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis explained that during a special meeting on Monday morning, the trustees approved a resolution that allows Mr. Bishop, at his discretion, “to solicit proposals for legal counsel to research constitutional issues relating to the eruv.”

There is no dollar amount associated with the proposal, which was approved by a 4-0 margin. Trustee Joan Levan was not present for the vote.

The matter was discussed in executive session, which is closed to the public, prior to the vote.

Ms. McGinnis stressed that the resolution does not mean that a lawsuit has been filed against the village. Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founding rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue, which is seeking the creation of the proposed boundary, did not rule out any possibilities if the Village Board rejects the synagogue’s application once it is resubmitted this fall.

Ever since the synagogue submitted its application to the village in February, requesting a proclamation to create the eruv, opposition to the proposal has grown. Synagogue officials are requesting the measure because they say it will allow Orthodox Jews to push and carry objects on the Sabbath. The synagogue temporarily withdrew the application in May in order to provide information about the proposed boundary over the summer.

Mr. Bishop said he has already submitted his opinion on the eruv, in letter form, to Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller. Citing attorney-client confidentiality, Mr. Bishop said he could not disclose his opinion on the matter.

“It’s not going to be public,” Mr. Bishop said.

Mr. Teller has not offered a clear opinion on the issue. Though he was on vacation this week, the mayor stated in previous interviews that he first wants to discuss specific issues with Mr. Bishop, such as whether or not the synagogue needs community support, possibly through a public referendum, for the creation of the proposed boundary.

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