Editor’s Note: At last week’s town board meeting, the board voted to accept the dismissal of the ethics complaint filed against Supervisor Michael Grace. In a unanimous decision, the town’s ethics board rejected the complaint filed by Mark Lieberman alleging a conflict of interest by the supervisor’s vote to adopt the town’s 485-B tax abatement program.
The complaint filed by Mark Lieberman alleged that it was a conflict of interest for me to vote on the town’s adoption of the New York State Real Tax Law’s 485-B abatement program.
The law adopted by unanimous vote of the town board is designed to encourage the rehabilitation and revitalization of the town’s commercial tax base by deferring the additional tax caused by the rehabilitation of commercial properties.
As a member of the legislative body, i.e. the town board, it is my duty to vote on proposed legislation for adoption in the town. As a resident of the town, every vote I make has an impact upon me personally.
It is clear that the complaint filed by Mr. Lieberman on its face had no merit. Otherwise, no town board member could vote on legislation affecting the town. Unfortunately, the complaint’s obvious lack of merit was not an impediment to the filing of the complaint and the rampant and reckless public disclosure which followed.
Whereas here there was no reasonable argument to be made that a conflict of interest existed by my affirmative vote, the only motivation for its filing was political.
Mr. Lieberman had no hope of reversing a vote he opposed, so his sole recourse was to file a baseless complaint.
Understanding that the complaint lacked merit and that it would be rejected by the ethics board, Mr. Lieberman, in anticipation that the ethics board would reject the complaint, began a campaign impugning the integrity of the ethics board as witnessed by letters to the editor in the local newspapers (“The Ethics of the Ethics Process in Yorktown”).
I find it unfortunate that the discourse and debate on issues of local importance cannot be had without recourse to the ad hominem, or trite character assassinations and slurs by innuendo.
A person’s reputation is their most cherished asset. While I understand not everyone agrees with my visions, my hopes for success for this town and the means taken to secure the future success and vitality of the town, disagreement is not a license to hurl meritless allegations. The polite, reasoned and courteous articulation of our differences is critical if we are to preserve the integrity of our democratic processes.
Moving to our divergent political corners to hurl insults, broad stroke innuendos of wrongdoing and meritless accusations only serve to further polarize and diminish the civic discourse.
At this point, I will chalk up Mr. Lieberman’s filing of the complaint to a certain naiveté of the purpose, intent and application of the law motivated by base partisan politics.
Hopefully, we can all move forward toward making Yorktown a vibrant town.
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