What's Coming?

Read previews of the Pipeline here

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ethics Board Holds First Meeting, In Secret

At long last Ethics in North Greenbush! We could write a book containing several chapters on the escapades here involving the Desso Spain team but we'll settle for the latest chapters.

The recap goes like this: The Desso Spain Majority takes control of town government and goes for two years without appointing an Ethics Board as required by Town Law. When enough political pressure is applied, they appoint one in January 2010, which included the mother of the town clerk, a sitting member of the Democratic Committee at the time. Conflict potential everywhere it seems, but all over the heads of this crew.

A complaint is filed in the town clerk's office in January 2010 asking the board to consider the ethics of Councilman Spain who just voted to hire an out of town attorney to the payroll who just happened to be providing free legal services to Spain's brother who was ordered by a judge to repay the Democratic Party more than 3 grand he illegally gave away when he lost control of the party. Not a bad deal. Brother Al gives an attorney a town job and in return his brother gets the guy to give him free legal services in a civil case.(Incidentally, Spain has been defying the court order to repay the money.)

So the Ethics Board was asked to review the matter and appearance of a quid pro quo but alas, the Town Clerk, an ally of the Spain's never bothered for more than a year to give the Ethics Board a copy of the complaint. Hear no evil see no evil!

Enter another complaint by the former town comptroller whom Lou Desso did a hatchet job on with a phony conclusion from a CPA firm that he had an "unauthorized bank account" with tons of town money in it.. "Forensic Audit" we need a forensic audit cried Desso repeatedly as he moved to fire the Comptroller and destroy his professional reputation. Hence, when the CPA's findings were exposed as incorrect, the now former Comptroller filed a compliant with the Ethics Board that never meets and never gets its mail. That one was returned to the sender by the town clerk who decided that she no longer can send mail to the Ethics Board because, what else, that would be unethical! Never mind that January 2010 complaint accepted and filed in her office that she refused to send to the Ethics Board.

So we come to the current events. The Ethics Board finally met on Thursday the 16th of June. Problem is they met in secret with no public notice and apparently no minutes of the meeting as required by the New York State Open Meetings Law. Seems to us that Councilman Spain did something like this with his Comprehensive Plan Committee and was forced to do the meeting over.

So apparently the Ethics Board of North Greenbush has finally met, albeit in total violation of the State's Open Meetings Law and attempts to get copies of the public notice and minutes have thus far been unsuccessful. Of course, they don't want to admit they don't have these records but in fact they do not and as a result, the Ethics Board and whatever conclusions they reached, are invalid as they will need to do a Spain, a do over of their illegal meeting.

But let's be fair here and put the blame for this dysfunctional government where it belongs, right on the town board. This majority did nothing to instruct the Ethics Board which is essentially three private citizens with no knowledge of public affairs and Open Meetings Laws, FOIL laws etc. They didn't meet for 18 months because they didn't know about the complaints and they didn't do the meeting right on June 16th because they weren't instructed on the requirements of State Law.

Next Chapter: Desso's Town Ethics Spread to his conflicting office on the County Legislature.
No good book would be complete without a conflict spreading into other areas. And Lou Desso doesn't disappoint us here. Recently Desso, who with his GOP County Legislative Majority, violated the County Ethics Law by appointing his County GOP Chairman, Neil Kelleher, to HVCC's Board of Trustees. After the Times Union raked them over the coals for a clear violation of the Ethics Law which simply forbids any party officer in the county from holding a position at HVCC or County government, he voted to appoint him anyway. Desso and his majority must have forgotten county history. They must have forgot why the law was passed in 1992 to remove the appearances of undue political influence on government and HVCC that is created when party officers are appointed to positions in county government. To limit these appearances, the Ethics Law included these important prohibitions.

David Dudley, the GOP Chair at the time of the law's passage, resigned as Chairman to stay on as the counsel to the County IDA, a lucrative position that earned him $500,000 in secret legal fees until a court ordered him to disclose them. Yes, even here in North Greenbush, our Ethics Law also prohibits party chairs from holding paid positions in the town which led a former GOP Chair, Greg DeJulio, to resign from the Planning Board out of respect for the law.

Now in Rensselaer County, even the Democrats voted to appoint Kelleher to the HVCC Board of Trustees. That's likely because Lou and his GOP allies stripped the minority party of their office staff including their legal counsel who presumably would have told the minority that the Kelleher appointment would be illegal because their former council was the majority attorney when the Ethics Law was passed in 1992.

See no evil hear no evil! That brings you all up to date. We'll also let you know when and if both the Town Ethics Board and the County Legislature meet again to do their respective business legally with do over meetings and legal conclusions and appointments.

We hope you have a safe and happy 4th of July.

No comments: