Brightwaters trustees spar over ethics code
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Some Brightwaters trustees criticized each other at a heated mid-month meeting as discussions over a proposed ethics code devolved into arguments.
Trustee John Lawlor and Deputy Mayor Denise Gibson drafted revisions to the village's code of ethics in response to an audit from the state comptroller's office in February.
Auditors suggested the village tighten the existing code and required Brightwaters officials to submit an action plan after the comptroller's office found the village operated with a budget deficit for each of the past three fiscal years by underestimating spending and overestimating revenue.
Mayor Joseph McNulty introduced the discussion of the ethics code Monday, saying "this is not etched in stone. This is a living document." He was silent during the subsequent discussion, though he was the subject of some complaints.
Trustee John Riordan said the proposed new code needed to explicitly deal with nepotism, and added, "I would just say it's embarrassing the mayor employs so many members of his family," apparently referring to McNulty's relatives filling some of the village's summer posts.
In response, Gibson said, "it's your opinion -- it's not embarrassing." She added that the village advertises its summer jobs but year after year, no one else applies. "Even going into this summer, we couldn't hire people because they weren't here," she said.
Riordan also questioned how the code could be enforced without establishing an ethics committee.
Lawlor responded that he did not want a committee to become a de facto "kangaroo court."
At one point, Riordan sparked a heated exchange when he asked to clarify a provision in the code prohibiting village officials from benefiting from contracts awarded to vendors. He said he was concerned that a vendor who rents space from McNulty was awarded a village contract for snow removal.
When Gibson charged that he lacked "any info that using them is bad business for the village," Riordan responded, "It's about how it affects the community."
Gibson said, "We look at the best prices." Then, Lawlor weighed in: "There's got to be a degree of flexibility in these provisions given our size."
Gibson then accused Riordan of unnecessarily delaying passage of the ethics code. "How much more research do you need to do?" she said. Riordan responded that while he was "fine to move forward on this . . . I think it lacks a few things."
The board may vote on the code of ethics at its next meeting, on Sept. 3.