The Oyster Bay Town Board has hired a lawyer to review the town's ethics code for possible changes.
The board on Tuesday approved, without discussion, Roslyn-based Leventhal, Cursio, Mullaney & Sliney LLP to serve as its ethics counsel for $50,000 a year, with options for two additional one-year terms.
Town Attorney Leonard Genova, who is a member of the ethics board, said he was unaware of specific changes anyone wanted to make to the town ethics code, but said the firm's attorney, Steven Leventhal, was experienced in those matters.
"He may or may not want to make suggestions or recommendations," Genova said. "We'll be wholly open to that."
The code covers issues such as conflicts of interest and financial disclosure, and lists penalties for violations.
The decision to hire an outside attorney was the result of a complaint made by Massapequa resident Robert Ripp against Planning Commissioner Frederick Ippolito. Genova said it was the first ethics complaint brought to the board in at least 20 years.
"It's a prudent time to make sure that everything is handled properly," Genova said.
Last month, Ripp asked the ethics board to look at whether work Ippolito did for town contractor Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving violated ethics rules. Ippolito faces federal tax evasion charges for allegedly receiving $2 million from the company and a Lizza family member, and not reporting it on his income taxes. Ippolito has denied the charges.
The ethics counsel would serve both the town board and the ethics board. If a complaint were brought against a town board member, the counsel might have to recuse himself, Genova said.
The town board selects the five-member ethics board.
In neighboring Huntington, this practice has recently come under fire by residents who questioned whether there was a conflict of interest if board appointees were tasked with making decisions about town board members. Huntington's ethics board is expected to start holding quarterly hearings instead of annual hearings.
Ripp has asked the Oyster Bay ethics board to hold a public meeting in the evening.