North Hempstead officials’ efforts to overhaul the town’s ethics code and establish new anti-nepotism policies will culminate with a Tuesday vote on more than a dozen proposed reforms.
Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth called for the bipartisan working group in April 2016, following revelations of nepotism, the Highway Department’s overtime use and former town Democratic Party Leader Gerard Terry’s $1.4 million in state and federal tax debts.
Last year, more than five top officials resigned or were terminated, including former Highway Superintendent Thomas P. Tiernan and his sister Helen McCann, an administrative assistant who was charged by the Nassau County district attorney’s office with embezzling cash from the town’s Solid Waste Management Agency. Deputy Town Clerk Concetta Terry, Gerard Terry’s wife, resigned in June after being cited by the ethics board for failing to disclose family debts.
The goal of the town’s new set of comprehensive policies is to eliminate any uncertainty about town processes, Bosworth said.
“It became clear that the ethics policies we had needed to be revisited,” she said. “Things that kind of were common sense, now they’re codified.”
Bosworth said she feels the group considered “any possible situation” that could pose a conflict of interest, and that strict penalties would be imposed for violations. The board can issue penalties up to $10,000 and refer issues for criminal prosecution.
The six-member committee included council members Dina De Giorgio and Peter Zuckerman, the Rev. Charles Vogeley and attorney John Brickman of Great Neck-based Ackerman Levine.
The proposed ethics reforms prohibit town employees from having a personal interest in town contracts, ban staff from accepting private jobs, and require most employees to file financial disclosure forms, among other mandates. The anti-nepotism laws include restricting supervision of relatives and requiring all prospective applicants and current employees to disclose the names of family members working for the town.
Longtime ethics board member Rabbi Robert Widom, of Great Neck’s Temple Emanuel, said he is pleased with the draft laws, which he said would reduce any future misunderstandings.
“I think it will avoid any new controversies that might arise,” Widom said. “It’ll serve the town as it should in the coming years.”
De Giorgio said that laws were “only as good as their enforcement” and that she hoped they would be applied, as they weren’t before.
The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, at 220 Plandome Rd. in Manhasset.
No, no and no
Some of North Hempstead’s proposed ethics and anti-nepotism laws:
- Prohibits town employees from having personal interests in contracts
- Requires most employees, including town contractors and party leaders, to file financial disclosures
- Increases Board of Ethics membership from 5 years to 7; reduces terms from 6 years to 4
- Prohibits relatives of elected town officials from working in the town
- Prohibits town employees and officials from involvement in any hiring, disciplinary or termination decisions of relatives
- Requires Board of Ethics to compile a list of all families working for the town and send to the Department of Human Resources