Yonkers beefs up ethics board amid scandal

City Hall on S. Broadway in downtown Yonkers. City Hall on S. Broadway in downtown Yonkers. (Feb. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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Vowing to get tough on ethical violations, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has tapped three new members of the city's Ethics Board.

They are Nancy Manzino, a former educator; Philip Pepe, a public affairs and communications counsel; and Philip Zisman, the city's former inspector general.

 The seven-member Ethics Board is responsible for investigating ethics complaints, conducting hearings, recommending disciplinary action, issuing advisory opinions, administrating city employee disclosure statements and providing ethics training for city employees. All three positions had been vacant since the end of last year.

In his first State of the City address, Spano vowed to improve the city's ethics laws in the aftermath of a public corruption scandal involving former Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, who was convicted of selling her vote on the city council in exchange for cash and gifts from her political mentor, former Yonkers GOP Chairman Zehy Jereis. Both were found guilty of conspiracy, bribery and extortion charges in a March 29 jury verdict.

"It is important that taxpayers know that all city employees are held accountable for their actions, especially as we represent them and act in their best interests," Spano said at a March 20 news conference.

Manzino is a former mathematics teacher and adjunct professor at Manhattanville College. She is a recipient of Cornell University's Outstanding Educator Award.

Pepe, a former assistant to former Yonkers Mayor Martinelli, heads Pepe & Associates, a public affairs and communications company. He is a former board member of the Yonkers Community Action Program.

Zisman served as Yonkers' inspector general and as its lead corporation counsel. He teaches criminal justice at John Jay College.

The newly appointed members will join Chairman Joseph Nocca, Kathleen Ennis, Helen Henkel and Gerard Theret on the board.

Yonkers doesn't have the best track record when it comes to investigating ethical violations.

City voters approved a referendum in 2005 that overhauled the ethics code and disbanded the previous ethics board, which was criticized for being underfunded and ineffective. The newly created board has investigated about a dozen cases of alleged violations but has declined to recommend disciplinary action, according to city records.

The board didn't investigate Annabi or Jereis.

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