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Mt. Vernon ethics board, council, discuss alleged ethical violations
The Mount Vernon Ethics Board met briefly behind closed doors Tuesday night with City Council members to discuss the volunteer board's ongoing probes of alleged ethical violations by Mayor Ernie Davis' senior staff.
Council members went into executive session shortly after convening the work session and spoke with four members of the Ethics Board for about 10 minutes. Board members left abruptly, refusing to answer questions from reporters. Then the Council continued the closed-door discussion for another hour before opening the meeting to the public.
The board is probing possible ethical violations by the city's corporation counsel and Davis' chief of staff, Nichelle Johnson, for allegedly using a BMW belonging to Sam Zherka, the controversial owner the Westchester Guardian weekly newspaper and part owner of a Manhattan strip club.
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Ethical questions have also been raised as to why Davis has been sending tax bills for a condo he owns in Florida, to City Councilwoman Roberta Apuzzo's home in Mount Vernon. The property -- a 758-square-foot condo in a subdivision at 750 Egret Circle in Delray Beach, Fla. -- and rental income Davis has been getting from it are part of a federal investigation into his personal finances, sources have told Newsday.
Still, it was unlikely that issue was discussed in the closed session during Tuesday night's Council meeting, as Apuzzo was participating. She declined to comment.
Some council members have called for an outside independent review of the allegations, suggesting that it might be more than the Ethics Board can handle. Board members also have been criticized for taking with the media about possible investigations.
Council President Yuhanna Edwards declined to say what was discussed in executive session but told reporters the closed-door discussion was about "personnel matters."
At one point, City Clerk George Brown, a friend and political ally of Mayor Davis, was asked to leave the executive session meeting. He declined to tell reporters why.
Before going into executive session, several council members voiced support for the Ethics Board and said they didn't see the need for outside review of alleged violations.
"We have the federal government looking at us, and they came without us calling," said City Councilwoman Karen Watts. "That's about as outside as you can get."
The five-member Ethics Board is appointed by the council and must report the results of investigations to the council before the findings are made public.