Girl Scouts and Politics

BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL

photo 1 photo 2Excited fifth graders from Strawtown Elementary Girl Scout Troop #40167 sat eagerly in the front of the room waiting to be called up during Clarkstown’s Town Board meeting on Tuesday, October 1. Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner introduced the girls who she had been working with creating a proclamation. The girls took turns reading their proclamation that announced October 11 to be “The Day of The Girl” in Clarkstown starting this year.

The proclamation is for a day to recognize gender equality and to advocate change. The day is celebrated annually in 97 other countries across the world. The UN declared the International Day of the Girl in 2011. The day is to encourage girls to fight for their rights, speak out again gender injustices and to recognize that girls worldwide face much discrimination. Hausner awarded the girls merit certificates and a copy of the proclamation to hang out their school.

After the special presentation of the girl scouts, there was an Ethics Board Report presented by Deputy Town Attorney Jeffrey Millman, with Chairman Rabbi Abraham present. Millman said that any investigation that would be going on by the board is confidential, so he had nothing to report. Millman and Abraham left shortly after.

After all resolutions were approved, Tom Nimick of New City had questions of the town board about Millman and his own following of the Code of Ethics. Millman works as a fulltime deputy town attorney for Clarkstown but is also a full partner in his law practice Philips and Millman. He practices election law that has represented all different parties, whoever will pay him.

“I find that all such representation is an inherent conflict of interest with ‘acting solely in the public interest.’ The most recent case is only the most egregious. He was arguing a partisan case concerning qualifications to stand for Town Supervisor – the election official to whom he is responsible. That is a glaring conflict of interest,” said Nimick. “He needs to pledge to cease all activity that conflicts with his public obligations. If he refused to do that he should be fired. What steps have you taken to ensure that he fulfills his public obligations?”

None of Nimick’s questions were addressed. As Supervisor Gromack attempted to adjourn the meeting, Nimick interrupted saying that his questions weren’t addressed, but Gromack adjourned anyway.

Michael Hull asked about a part-time $75,000 a year Highway Department position, held by Legislator Frank Sparaco, whose job, among other things, was to help with overwhelming phone calls during hurricanes and snowstorms. Hull asked the board to motion to immediately rescind the Constituent Services position in the Highway Department that he deems a “highly unethical use of taxpayers’ money,” as Sparaco has led Ballard’s reelection campaign.

Wayne Ballard was present at the board meeting and spoke out about this position. He said that the position was to do all the tasks mentioned with phone calls and storm cleanups, but working for an elected political figure, there would always be political campaigning that came along with it on the side.

Hull also asked about last week’s report given by Fleet Manager Dennis Malone, Ballard’s opponent in this year’s election. Malone had reported that in this past year he decreased the spending for parts and services to $400,000 from the $700,000 Ballard usually spent. Specifically, Mark’s Onsite Truck and Repair was mentioned with a markup on a part of $3,000. Mark Mondelli, the owner, is an ex-employee of the Town of Clarkstown and has billed the town for over $500,000 in the past five years, said Hull. He asked for an audit of all charges made by this supplier.

Laurie Doherty thanked Malone for the lowered expenses and mentioned her concern over the money spent by Ballard at Mark’s Onsite Repair. Pete Bradley asked about the 100 percent markup on parts by the ex-town employee and also urged the town to audit the repair expenses.

Ballard talked about leaf equipment that may not be ready for the fall and that with his 16 years of experience he knows how things need to work. He said that it takes over 50 days for the parts to come in and that will set up far back, causing him to need to rent equipment. Malone said that is not true and the leaf equipment is ready since it was never used last year and that he has two spare parts for every part on the equipment. Ballard said that the equipment is very old and he guarantees many of them won’t start, will need new brakes and so forth. The two went back and forth numerous times, with shouts from the audience depending on whose side they were on.

“We need to keep to pertinent information and less of this back and forth,” said Hausner.

Borelli announced he would like to have a resolution at the next board meeting about an audit on Mark’s Onsite Repair Shop. Councilwoman Shirley Lasker did not agree.