Southold Town Board appoints new town attorney in unanimous vote

The Southold Town Board unanimously accepted the resignation of acting town attorney John Burke on Tuesday evening. Mr. Burke has held the position since his predecessor, Bill Duffy, departed in October 2021. 

“The Town Board is very fond of John,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “We are very grateful for the hard work and knowledge he brought to the position.”

“I was offered a great opportunity to work for the Town of Brookhaven,” Mr. Burke said. “That’s where I’ll be going and I look forward to that. I was happy to be able to serve the citizens of the Town of Southold.”

Mr. Burke will be succeeded by Paul DeChance, a highly regarded nonpartisan municipal attorney who most recently worked with the Town of Brookhaven Zoning Board of Appeals. Mr. DeChance was appointed by a 6-0 vote of the Town Board and will start Jan. 10, according to Mr. Russell.

“Everyone on the board is very excited to work with him,” the supervisor said. “We are lucky to have him joining us.” 

Language accessibility in Town 

The North Fork Unity Action Committee addressed Town Board members about its recommendations for language access policies and practices in the town at a work session Tuesday. The group hopes to better serve community members who are non-English-speakers. 

“Fifteen percent of the town identifies as Hispanic,” said committee member Silvia Baruch, a Peconic Landing resident. “The needs of these people are not being met. We want to make the town as accessible as possible for those who have limited English ability.” 

The committee‘s first recommendation was to appoint someone as a language access coordinator. A letter it presented to board offered suggestions on A letter presented to the board suggested what that position would entail. The letter also recommended setting up a Language Line, an interpretive service, or similar technology that could be implemented across all town departments. 

“We want to make sure that there is communication, not just basic language translation,” added committee member Sonia Spar. “It’s not a matter of words, it’s a matter of approach. Nuances can get lost when simply translating.” 

Board and committee members agreed on improve signage around the town. The town acknowledged that the effort may be extensive in the short term, but will be beneficial in the long term. 

“This is about making sure we understand that people come from different cultures and there are different ways of life,” said Ms. Spar. “We can facilitate a clearer communication [between] the town and its constituents.”