Update – 6 p.m.: The date of the water forum meeting has been changed to Wednesday, Sept. 22 in observance of Yom Kippur, Councilman Ken Rothwell told RiverheadLOCAL this afternoon. The meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.
The Riverhead Anti-Bias Task Force has complained to the town board that the board is holding public meetings on the Jewish High Holidays.
In a letter signed by ABTF chairperson Cindy Clifford, which Councilwoman Catherine Kent read aloud at today’s town board meeting, the ABTF noted that the town had scheduled its regular monthly meeting today, the second day of Rosh Hashanah and a water forum meeting on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for people of the Jewish faith.
“Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, a day devoted to prayer and fasting and every bit as significant and meaningful in the Jewish faith as Easter is in the Christian religion,” Clifford wrote. “As such, it deserves the same respect and consideration.”
The Anti-Bias Task Force asked the town board to reschedule the water forum “to a more suitable calendar date.”
Kent asked the board to honor their request.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar expressed displeasure at Kent bringing the request to the town board meeting.
“You know, Councilwoman, you are the liaison to the office and to your peers, and if that was an issue I think we could have just discussed that when it first came out,” Aguiar told Kent.
Kent responded that she is the liaison to the Anti-Bias Task Force, and that’s why she was bringing their request to the board.
“Yeah, but we didn’t know that there was possibly a conflict and you should try to communicate that with us, instead of just bringing it now, without — now we noticed it, it’s in the newspapers. As soon as that became aware, maybe we should have somehow had a discussion,” Aguiar replied.
Kent said after the meeting she learned about the water forum date only when it was published in RiverheadLOCAL. She also said she got the letter from the ABTF yesterday.
Councilman Ken Rothwell, whom Aguiar put in charge of the water forum, said during yesterday’s meeting he wanted to schedule the water forum before the upcoming Calverton Restoration Advisory Meeting, which he said was scheduled for Sept. 16.
“So we wanted to have the discussion before the meeting, which happens to be on the 16th. So it’d be nice to have this discussion prior, so that we can bring questions and concerns to the RAB perhaps the next day,” Rothwell told Kent.
But the next public meeting of the Calverton Restoration Advisory Board, which meets twice a year, isn’t until November. The date has not yet been announced. The Navy is holding an orientation meeting for new and current RAB members on Sept. 16, Manorville resident Kelly McClinchy, who is a member of the RAB, said today.
“It’s not a public meeting about the site,” McClinchy said. “Rothwell knows about it because I had asked him not to schedule the water forum on the 16th because there was a RAB orientation meeting for members that evening.” She said the RAB orientation meeting would create a conflict for Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini, who is a member of the RAB,
The water forum — a quarterly meeting proposed by Rothwell for discussion of Riverhead District issues — was originally scheduled to hold its first meeting on the evening of Monday, Sept. 20, as reported by RiverheadLOCAL Sept. 2, after an interview with Rothwell about the forum.
The following day, Rothwell contacted RiverheadLOCAL to say the water forum date was changed to Sept. 15 due to a scheduling conflict. He did not say what the conflict was nor did he mention the RAB meeting. RiverheadLOCAL later learned the Riverhead Republican Committee was already advertising a “meet the candidates” event at Polish Hall on Sept. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m.
“We’re doing this forum by Zoom,” Rothwell said yesterday at the town board meeting. “So by doing it that way, anybody who has questions beforehand, they don’t need to wait till the 15th. You can send any questions in now,” he said.
“It will also be recorded, so that you will be able to watch the meeting at any time in your leisure. So those that respectfully cannot attend because of the holiday — and I totally understand it, just it’s a short period of time and we’re trying to accomplish a lot of things in a significant time period — you can send in questions, you can send in concerns, whether via email, letter, calling any member of the board and we’ll get those answers and we’ll discuss them,” Rothwell said.
“I think we wanted to have some answers because the RAB meeting is scheduled on the 16th,” he said.
Kent renewed her request to reschedule the meeting “as a matter of respect to those in our community.” None of the other board members responded.
Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of a new year, ended after sundown yesterday.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sept. 15. The solemn holiday, the most significant in the Jewish faith, requires a 25-hour fast and attendance at special religious services. Working and other activities are also prohibited during the holiday.
Kent, the board’s lone Democrat, is running for town supervisor this year. Clifford, the Anti-Bias Task Force chairperson, was involved in Laura Jens-Smith’s re-election campaign in 2019, when Aguiar defeated Jens-Smith in the general election. Aguiar and Kent often spar over issues during town board meetings and Aguiar, as she did yesterday during a different discussion, often accuses Kent of campaigning during meetings.
Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously referred to the “Yom Kippur” holiday as the “Yom Kippur War” due to an autocorrect insertion.
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