Ethics Board Meeting Follow up by Peter Nichols

Filed under: News |

Peter Nichols is a Huntington resident and former Town Board candidate.  He runs the website.

Last night’s Ethics Board meeting was attended by approximately two dozen residents.  That’s a tremendous improvement considering the usual turnout for the board’s annual meeting is about zero.

Concerns ranged from ‘what does the board actually do?’ to ‘what is the exact procedure for filing a complaint?’

Chairman Howard Glickstein and board attorney James Matthews fielded most of the questions from residents.  Mr. Glickstein stated that the board’s focus is very narrow and does not act like a court.  They only consider if the complaint filed violates the town’s ethics code.

 Here are some of the highlights:

    • One board member kept covering his face with his hands while I was speaking.  Either this guy didn’t get enough sleep last night or he was trying to tell me he could care less what I was talking about.  Not sure where his hands were prior.
    • I tried to cover the basics about what the board’s ‘mission’ was and my own experience in filing complaints so that those in the audience would get a better idea of the process.
    • Originally the board was set up to field complaints from town employees about other town employees.  If things are so bad that we need an ‘ethics’ board to field all the complaints, we may want to consider privatizing or eliminating some government services.
    • Bob LaVigna mentioned that it was ‘unethical’ and even ironic for the ethics board to police the same people who appointed them.  He also wondered why none of their decisions were published for public review.  James Matthews responded that there was a ‘confidentiality’ clause that prevented the board from doing so.  Bob finished up by mentioning the board’s independence can only be guaranteed if they were elected.
    • Steve Spucces from the Greater Huntington Civic Group inquired about the procedure and that the board should meet quarterly instead of annually and that 7pm would be better than 6pm.  Chairman Howard Glickstein inquired about the Greater Huntington Civic Association and what their mission was.  Mr. Spucces responded by stating they were the voice of the people.
    • Nick Wieland wanted to know if James Matthews also represented the ZBA.  I think that might be considered a conflict of interest, but we’ll see.
    • Art from the CSA asked the most direct questions to the board members, asking them what political parties they belonged to, if they ever sanctioned anyone and if any of them did any work for the town in addition to their board positions.  Board member Louis England mentioned that he was the ‘receiver’ of a crack house that had been shut down.  He got a round of applause.  According to board rules, they cannot have more than two members of any political party. 
    • The guy who kept covering his face finally stopped.

In the end I mentioned to the board that we need a ‘proactive’ person to keep tabs on what’s happening in the town and if they would be resistant to a Public Advocate or an Ombudsman for the town. They didn’t have any objections – so this might be an avenue to explore.

It was a good turnout for topics that are rarely brought up in public.  Let’s hope the board publishes some of their decisions and meets more regularly.

What does it say about how seriously the town board takes ethical behavior when only two of its members, Gene Cook and Mark Mayoka, bothered to show up last night? Democrats Frank Petrone, Mark Cuthbertson and potential town supervisor candidate Susan Berland were conspicuously absent.
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