Ethics board clears mayor, city attorney
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Ward Alderman Brad Will, but it also challenged Noble’s decision to dissolve the previous Ethics Board as the city repealed and then adopted a new Ethics Law.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