YORKTOWN, N.Y. - A former supervisor appealed to the Town Board two weeks ago for its help in determining whether intervention is necessary in moving along a complaint she filed last July with the Ethics Board.
“If my complaint is still being investigated,” Susan Siegel told the board during its courtesy of the floor at its meeting Tuesday, May 21, “I’m beginning to wonder if we have a functioning Ethics Board.”
In her complaint, Siegel alleges that another town supervisor, Michael Grace, violated the so-called “revolving-door” provision of the town’s ethics code by representing a “person or corporation before any town body”—in this case, Breslin Realty and the Planning Board—within a year of leaving office. Breslin owns the property on which Lowe’s was built and Grace represented it in a dispute heard by the Planning Board about whether it was responsible for connecting neighboring properties to the sewer line servicing Lowe’s.
Grace has maintained that his representation in that matter did not constitute a conflict of interest.
In a statement Siegel read into the record, she detailed her efforts to ascertain the complaint’s status, and after 10 months, said, “I have no idea if the Ethics Board is still investigating my complaint or it’s reached a determination and forwarded the recommendations to the Town Board—because, as you know, according to the ethics law, the Ethics Board makes a recommendation to the Town Board and the Town Board makes the final determination.”
Regarding her complaint, Siegel contended, “This was really very straightforward and did not require an extensive or prolonged investigation—certainly not 10 months. In fact, there’s a public record as to what actually took place,” further prompting her request that the governing body meet with the five-member board in executive session to weigh its “workload” to see whether it is “having any problems or why it’s taking so long to deal with this complaint.”
She also suggested, because the Ethics Board is prohibited from, per the ethics code, communicating “directly or indirectly with any party or other persons about any issue of fact or law regarding the complaint,” that the law be amended to enable it “just to simply say, ‘We have your complaint; we’re working on it.’”
“The absolute silence I find very, very unreasonable,” she said.
In response, Councilman Ed Lachterman sympathized, saying he, too, had filed a complaint—which he did not detail during the meeting—that took 18 months “before it was answered.” Lachterman had filed an ethics complaint against Councilman Vishnu Patel in October 2017 alleging that, in violation of town code, Patel divulged information to the press that was discussed during an executive session of the Town Board. In March, 17 months after filing the complaint, Lachterman told Yorktown News he had not yet received a response from the Ethics Board.
But in a phone interview on Thursday, May 30, Lachterman said that although he was limited in what he could say, the Ethics Board “has come to a conclusion” regarding what he called “a very serious breach” by Patel. He added that he has recused himself from board discussion of that conclusion. He said the Town Board is required to “act on it in public,” but it does not have to disclose the Ethics Board’s conclusion or even act in support of it.
Still, Lachterman defended the Ethics Board at the meeting, saying its volunteers have “come before us; they have needed resources.”
“We have actually had to vote for it, where they had to have a legal opinion on a few things,” he said. “I believe your case is one.”
Noting that the Ethics Board meets only once a month and some cases can be “quite time-consuming,” Lachterman advised Siegel, “I would just say, ‘Be patient.’ They’re doing their job.”