Mayor signs new ethics leg­is­la­tion

Law ‘more ap­pro­pri­ate’ and ‘en­force­able’ than 2013 ver­sion, No­ble says

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­line.com ArielAtFree­man on Twit­ter

The city of Kingston has a new Ethics Law, re­plac­ing one that was adopted in 2013.

Mayor Steve No­ble an­nounced Wednes­day he had signed the law, which he called “far more ap­pro­pri­ate, com­pre­hen­sive and en­force­able than its pre­de­ces­sor.” He said it was cre­ated af­ter thor­ough re­search of var­i­ous ethics laws from other com­mu­ni­ties.

“I want to thank the [Com­mon] Coun­cil for their due dili­gence, as we now have be­fore us a code that I am con­fi­dent will best pro­tect the pub­lic and main­tain gov­ern­ment func­tion­al­ity,” No­ble said.

The coun­cil voted in fa­vor of the ethics leg­is­la­tion on Sept. 13. Among the changes from the pre­vi­ous law is a mech­a­nism by which the an­nual fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure forms sub­mit­ted by cer­tain city em­ploy­ees and of­fi­cials can be opened and re­viewed. The new law also more nar­rowly de­fines con­flict of in­ter­est.

No­ble signed the leg­is­la­tion the day af­ter hold­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on it. The four in­di­vid­u­als who spoke at the hear­ing all pre­vi­ously voiced con­cerns about the leg­is­la­tion.

Ellen DiFalco, who served as con­fi­den­tial sec­re­tary to for­mer Mayor Shayne Gallo, called the pro­posed Ethics Law a “flawed doc­u­ment, which is be­ing weak­ened de­spite what your coun­sel states.” She said it should have been re­ferred to an ethics re­view board that in­cluded com­mu­nity mem­bers rather than crafted by No­ble’s cor­po­ra­tion coun­sel.

DiFalco also ques­tioned

the dead­line for when an­nual fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure forms would need to be filed with the city, not­ing that she saw two dif­fer­ent dates. She also said the def­i­ni­tion of “fam­ily” in the pro­posal should be ex­panded to in­clude aunt, un­cle, mother- and fa­ther-in­law, sis­ter- and brother-in­law, and cousin.

No­ble’s un­cle, James No­ble, serves as pres­i­dent of the Com­mon Coun­cil, and the mayor’s wife, Julie, is an en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor em­ployed by the city.

Ad­di­tion­ally, DiFalco said a qual­i­fi­ca­tion for some­one to be ap­pointed to the city Ethics Board should not be that they do­nated heav­ily to the mayor’s elec­tion cam­paign. She also ques­tioned what pro­vi­sions of the Ethics Law would ap­ply when fam­ily mem­bers of the mayor fam­ily re­ceive

pro­mo­tions. DiFalco’s hus­band, Joe, also ac­cused the mayor of chang­ing the Ethics Law to suit him­self.

“You’re chang­ing this law now be­cause you are be­ing brought up on charges,” Joe DiFalco said. “Your cor­po­rate coun­sel is be­ing brought up on charges.”

Joe DiFalco filed charges with the city al­leg­ing No­ble’s dis­so­lu­tion of the Ethics Board in May was il­le­gal, and that No­ble and Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­sel Kevin Bryant mis­han­dled the ethics probe into for­mer Al­der­man Brad Will, D-Ward 3, who re­signed from the Com­mon Coun­cil in April.

Joe DiFalco said he came pre­pared to tell No­ble he was vi­o­lat­ing the law.

“And I’m go­ing to haunt you your en­tire ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

Kingston res­i­dent An­drew Champ-Do­ran also again crit­i­cized the elim­i­na­tion of a fu­ture em­ploy­ment pro­vi­sion in the law. He said with the elim­i­na­tion, the law is teach­ing

that pub­lic of­fice is for sale.

“You are teach­ing that pub­lic ser­vice is worth do­ing only as long as it’s con­ve­nient,” Champ-Do­ran, who has run un­suc­cess­fully for a Com­mon Coun­cil seat, said while flanked by his fam­ily. “The minute you can make more money else­where, you should just quit and jump at the chance.”

City res­i­dent Hil­lary Har­vey also again ques­tioned whether city board and com­mis­sion mem­bers are ed­u­cated about the Ethics Law and the proper way to re­cuse them­selves from rul­ing on cer­tain is­sues that come be­fore them.

No­ble later said ed­u­ca­tion is pro­vided and all board and com­mis­sion mem­bers are given copies of the law.

Fol­low­ing the hear­ing, Alder­woman Lynn Eck­ert, D-Ward 1, said the 2013 Ethics Law largely func­tioned well and that those who spoke at the hear­ing have had the chance to com­ment on the new leg­is­la­tion many

times in the past. She also said the only peo­ple to file ethics vi­o­la­tion charges un­der the law were Joe DiFalco,

Champ-Do­ran and Will.

Eck­ert said the city’s cur­rent ef­fort is to “try to make

the bill more fo­cused and stronger. The vast ma­jor­ity of ci­ti­zens have pos­i­tively re­sponded to it.”

ARIEL ZANGLA — DAILY FREE­MAN FILE

Kingston Mayor Steve No­ble

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