Opinion – The Ethics Board Should be Disbanded & Mark Cuthbertson Should Step Down
The following is a statement made by a Huntington resident at the March 18, 2015, Town of Huntington Ethics Board Meeting. (Check back for more coverage of this meeting.)
Good evening, my name is Gerard Seitz and I’ve been a resident for over 19 years.
During the Town’s push for the TOD (Transit Oriented Development) and down-zoning to create Avalonbay, David Pennetta appeared all over fb and social media, including writing op eds in all the local papers, including the Patch as a staunch advocate for this type of development. After the first Town Board vote which opposed Avalonbay, out-spoken advocate and owner of Oxford & Simpson Realty stated in Newsday, September 29th, 2010 that “It’s going to be very difficult or much more challenging to get something through if you’re not using social media,” said David Pennetta. He then set up a panel as a commercial broker and vice chairman of the Huntington Economic Development Corp along with Long Island’s four big industry trade groups to sponsor “Social Media and Real Estate Development,” a Hofstra University symposium on Nov. 16, 2010 to address this problem. One of his writings was published in Long Island Business News with an Op-Ed: Huntington Station needs Avalon Bay on March 18, 2011. He has since given numerous real estate symposiums with both Chris Capece and Matthew Whalen, both VPs of Avalonbay Communities… how very odd.
Both Supervisor Petrone and Mark Cuthbertson invited Avalonbay back to the table and was approved this second time against the community’s wishes. For all his lobbying efforts advocating for Avalonbay, Pennetta was awarded a second appointment as a Planning Board member. Coincidentally, at the first Town Board meeting some residents demanded that Mark Cuthbertson recuse his vote because not only was Avalonbay’s council Cuthbertson’s former law firm, but Mark previously and currently still accepts political contributions from Farrel Fritz and its various employees. Mark subsequently did not recuse his vote, even with this glaringly obvious conflict of interest.
During my research I discovered CIBS, Commercial Industrial Brokers Society. As President of CIBS, David Pennetta “has brought a more active role in the political sector by cataloging its membership for persons actively serving in public service, whether elected or appointed.” Coincidentally, Town Councilman, Mark Cuthbertson is a member of CIBS for numerous years and even has taken full page ads in its newsletter for his law firm. CIBS supports development-friendly legislation and wants to web together members of influence and mutually support each other’s efforts. There’s no finer way to do that than having Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson voting for your development projects. After all, Pennetta states, “these relationships increase your ability to make yourself and others money.” How can these guys make unbiased decisions as to what are the best interests of the entire town when they are working alongside the real estate developers. Talk about conflicts of interests!
Why IS Mark Cuthbertson still sitting on the Town Board? WHY is he still voting on the down-zoning of Oheka Castle for their Luxury Town homes when we already know about his questionable receiverships from Gary Melius along with Melius’ large political donations? This isn’t an appearance of a conflict of interest, it IS a conflict of interest. He failed to disclose that he was working with Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius when he approved the first zoning change for the castle. He failed to disclose not one, not two, but three receiverships. “It’s the problem of serving two masters,” We don’t need to change the Ethics Code, we need them to be enforced. There is zero enforcement currently because you are all appointed by the town so you do their bidding. There should be at least quarterly, televised meetings with a court stenographer taking minutes. Until that happens this Ethics Board is a farce. Due to time restraints I will not yet disclose how many conflicts of interests this Board even has, but a packet will be delivered to Preet Bharara of the Justice Department and the media with our findings. We have over five years of research. Interestingly, only today I found that CIBS has a strategic alliance with Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI). Ironically, Stanley Heller, an ethic’s Board Member’s firm, the Fuoco Group has some interesting history with his company and the Town of Huntington. *The Fuoco Group does accounting for the LI Builders Institute PAC.* Fuoco Group, LLP, ALSO performs auditing and accounting services for the many departments of Town of Huntington, its Human Services Institute, Cultural Affairs Institute and Youth Bureau Institute and the Economic Development Corporation. No CONFLICT of INTEREST there. OR here… Donald P. Musgnug-cpa director at Fuoco. Beside his public accounting experience he served a four year term as Councilman for the Town of Huntington, served one year as Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Huntington and spent six years as Chief Financial Officer for the Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation managing budgets upwards of $200 million.
So in closing the Ethics board should be disbanded and Mark Cuthbertson should step down.