Code of Ethics Debated in Clarkstown

BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL

Sometimes the line that divides right from wrong can seem blurred. A hot topic at Clarkstown’s Town Board meeting on August 20 had to do with the Code of Ethics in the town code. The recent tapes that Legislator Frank Sparaco released to the public were mentioned by members of the public numerous times.

The first part of the meeting was a continuation of a proposed local law to amend/update/delete various chapters of the town code. New City resident Tom Nimick thanked the board for considering his comments from the last public hearing. He suggested there may be need for amending Chapter 18, which is the Code of Ethics.

“The Code of Ethics is a follows: ‘Establish high standards of ethical conduct for elected officials, covered employees and town employees; afford elected officials, covered employees and town employees clear guidance to such standards; promote public confidence in the integrity of town government; facilitate consideration of potential problems before they arise; minimize unwarranted suspicion and enhance the accountability of government to the people,’” read Nimick.

Nimick asked the board if the events that occurred in the meetings between Sparaco, Frank Borelli and Dennis Malone have been considered by the Board of Ethics for investigation as violations. The Deputy Town Attorney Jeffrey Millman, who is the attorney for the Board of Ethics, responded that no allegations have been brought to the board as of the present time. If a complaint was to be made, it would be kept confidential. There is no statue of limitations when it comes to filing a complaint with the Board of Ethics.

As no action has been made, Nimick suggests that the Town’s Code of Ethics be amended as they were not followed. He proposed two amendments that he drafted himself. The first had to do with the prohibition of making recordings without the knowledge of others, and the second for not allowing town employees to overlap into political positions.

He also quoted in regards to Sparaco that “any person who induces any elected official, covered employee or town employee to take any action or refrain from taking any action, which is in violation of this chapter, shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor as that term is defined in the New York State Penal Law and shall be barred from doing business with the town for a period of five years from the date of conviction.”

Another resident, Michael Hull, spoke of the reviewed Sparaco tapes saying that no law was broken, but the action was “just shameful.” He asked what steps have been taken to not allow something like this to happen again. He said that it was unfair for comments, that for all we know could be innocent, to be recorded against someone’s knowledge and used for blackmail. No further answers were given to Hull.

Steven Levine of Congers urged the board not to close and adopt the public hearing that night, but to keep it open until the next meeting. Councilman George Hoehmann and Councilwoman Shirley Lasker were both absent and he felt they should be able to deliberate on his comments. Levine was concerned with the disposing of records and plans, and storm water management. He stressed that putting in paving stones, retaining walls and removing trees affects drainage and needs to be considered.

The resolution was closed and adopted.

The second public hearing was an application of Rockland Jewish Community Center Corporation for a special permit for outdoor recreation. The hearing was opened and announced to be continued at a later date.

Frank Grandel asked about why Fleet Manager Dennis Malone is paid so much in overtime. Marge Hook asked who is monitoring his overtime and making sure he’s really working it. She was also worried about getting flooded at her house repeatedly and said she will sue the fleet manager and the town if it happens again. She also asked why Malone is exempt from public town board meetings when all others must attend. Supervisor Alexander Gromack responded that Malone will be at the September workshop meeting.

“Do you not see the state of the town? Do you not see the disgrace? Any claim to ethics- the high phrases of your Code of Ethics are empty – your town is an ethical moras. Do you not see that it is now your disgrace, a blot on your character?” asked Nimick of the board. “Will you [Gromack] have the spine to do the harder right and reject the easy wrong – or will you be know to yourself, and to us all, as the ‘spineless supervisor?’”