Brightwaters officials update ethics code

Brightwaters Village Hall, shown on Aug. 4, 2012, Brightwaters Village Hall, shown on Aug. 4, 2012, houses the village court, board of trustees meetings, vehicle and traffic department, and more. Photo Credit: Brittany Wait

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The Brightwaters board has passed an updated ethics code, amid much bickering.

"This ethics code is not wrought in stone. It can change," Mayor Joseph McNulty said during a public hearing on the code attended by dozens at Brightwaters Village Hall. The code passed, 3-2, at Tuesday's meeting.

Trustee Joe McDermott, who voted against the policy, said he wasn't allowed to have input into the code drafted by Deputy Mayor Denise Gibson and Trustee John Lawlor. "Two people have had no input on this," McDermott said, referring to himself and Trustee John Riordan, who also opposed the new code.

Gibson and Lawlor wrote revisions to the ethics code in response to an audit from the state comptroller's office in February that suggested, among other things, that the village tighten the code. The updates included clarifications of certain prohibitions, such as accepting gifts over a certain amount, and conflicts of interest.

Gibson said McDermott had plenty of time to comment on the draft of the updated code. "Not a single detailed comment did he put forward to this board," she said.

During the public hearing, resident Sean Reilly asked how the ethics code will be enforced. "I don't understand what the process is" if a village official violates the code, he said. Village attorney John Finnerty said unless criminal conduct occurs, ethical problems will be "judged in the court of popular opinion" of village residents.

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Riordan added, " . . . if they know about it."

Riordan said later in the hearing that he wants the village to form a committee to rule on ethics violations. Lawlor responded that such a committee might be used for political purposes and interfere with village business. "We have work to do that we really have to do," he said, and added that in his research on ethics codes, he found only a handful of the more than 100 villages on Long Island to have ethics committees. "I haven't seen how one works to see if it does work," he said. No action was taken.

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