Ethics board clears mayor, city at­tor­ney

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­ Ariel At Free­man on Twit­ter

KINGSTON >> The city Ethics Board has dis­missed com­plaints against the city’s mayor and chief at­tor­ney.

Fol­low­ing a brief ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion Mon­day, the board voted 3-0 to dis­miss ethics charges against Mayor Steve No­ble and Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­sel Kevin Bryant, find­ing there was no merit to the com­plaints and there­fore no need for a hear­ing on the mat­ter. The charges had been brought by city res­i­dent Joseph Di Falco, who said fol­low­ing the board’s de­ci­sion that he will pur­sue crim­i­nal charges of “ob­struc­tion of jus­tice” with the Ul­ster County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Hol­ley Carn­right could not be reached for com­ment Tues­day morn­ing.

The votes on the Ethics Board in fa­vor of dis­miss­ing the com­plaints were cast by board Chair­man Allen Nace, Rev. Arthur Cos­ton and Glenn Fitzger­ald. Ab­sent from the meet­ing were Pat Mur­phy and Jose Villa.

DiFalco’s com­plaints were largely based on a waiver granted to for­mer Third Ward Al­der­man Brad Will, but it also chal­lenged No­ble’s de­ci­sion to dis­solve the pre­vi­ous Ethics Board as the city re­pealed and then adopted a new Ethics Law.

Will re­signed from the Com­mon Coun­cil on April 11 af­ter be­ing fined for vi­o­lat­ing the city ethics law. The vi­o­la­tion was that he voted on mat­ters re­lated to the ren­o­va­tion of Kingston’s Up­town side­walk canopies, known as the Pike Plan, with­out dis­clos­ing his pro­fes­sional in­volve­ment in the project as an ar­chi­tect.

The de­ci­sion to fine Will was made by the pre­vi­ous Ethics Board, chaired by Jean Ja­cobs, which later was dis­solved by No­ble.

DiFalco said Bryant im­prop­erly claimed the Ethics Board granted a waiver to Will, al­low­ing him to ap­pear be­fore any city board or agency on be­half of his pri­vate clients. He added that No­ble then im­prop­erly is­sued such a waiver.

DiFalco, who is chair­man of the Ul­ster County In­de­pen­dence Party, said only city em­ploy­ees can ob­tain waivers and that Will no longer was em­ployed by the city when one was granted to him. He also said the meet­ing at which the waiver was dis­cussed should have been held in pub­lic, af­ter be­ing prop­erly pub­li­cized, per the ethics law. That was not done, DiFalco said.

“He’s not an em­ployee, he can’t get a waiver,” DiFalco said. “Pe­riod.”

DiFalco said there was no men­tion in the de­ci­sion of the pre­vi­ous Ethics Board re­gard­ing a waiver for Will, mean­ing one did not ex­ist.

Nace said the cur­rent Ethics Board re­viewed DiFalco’s com­plaint mul­ti­ple times and at length. He said the city ethics law states an em­ployee may re­quest a writ­ten waiver form but not that they must.

Nace said the law is vague about the waiver form and, be­cause of the vague­ness, a city em­ployee can­not be held to a stan­dard he or she can­not meet.

Nace also said four of the five mem­bers of the pre­vi­ous Ethics Board were polled and each said a waiver for Will had been ap­proved by them. He said, as a re­sult, Bryant did not file a false in­stru­ment, as DiFalco al­leged, and No­ble is­sued the waiver at the di­rec­tion of the pre­vi­ous board.

Ja­cobs said Tues­day that her board fol­lowed the Ethics Law and went into the April meet­ing to hear the charges against Will. She said the board at that meet­ing dis­cussed ver­biage that could be used in a waiver but that Will did not bring a writ­ten doc­u­ment for the group to re­view.

“There is no waiver,”

Ja­cobs said. She said Will was sup­posed to ob­tain a writ­ten waiver form and present a com­pelling rea­son for why a waiver should be granted, but did not do so.

DiFalco said the board can­not just poll its pre­de­ces­sors re­gard­ing the waiver. He said the de­ci­sion about Will was signed by Ja­cobs and does not men­tion a waiver.

The cur­rent board’s de­ci­sion, how­ever, states that there is no re­quire­ment in the city code that a waiver

re­quest must be in writ­ing. It says that while such a re­quest should per­haps be in writ­ing, there is no man­date.

The cur­rent board’s de­ci­sion states Will ver­bally re­quested a waiver and it was granted.

The board’s de­ci­sion to dis­miss DiFalco’s com­plaints

also states that, un­der the city code, the mayor has the power to re­move mem­bers of the Ethics Board at his plea­sure.

DiFalco’s wife, Ellen, was sec­re­tary to for­mer Mayor Shayne Gallo, who lost to No­ble in the Septem­ber 2015 Demo­cratic may­oral pri­mary.


Kingston Mayor Steve No­ble, left, and city Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­sel Kevin Bryant

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