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Oyster Bay candidate says he won’t file financial disclosure

Robert Ripp, an independent who is running for

Robert Ripp, an independent who is running for Oyster Bay Town supervisor, speaks during a candidates forum at the Hicksville library on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Independent Oyster Bay Town Supervisor candidate Robert Ripp said he has refused to file a financial disclosure form to the town ethics board, as required under the town code.

The other four candidates in the supervisor race have either filed their disclosure forms or stated they would file them. The Oyster Bay ethics code requires candidates to disclose sources of income, assets and information about family members.

“I have decided to boycott your request to submit a financial disclosure,” Ripp, 56, of Massapequa, wrote in an email to the town ethics board Friday.

Ethics board counsel Steven Leventhal said in an email Sunday that the board sent letters to Ripp in June and August informing him he needed to file financial disclosure. The August letter told Ripp the board could seek legal action in state court to compel compliance with the code, Leventhal said.

Ripp wrote in his email to the board that the disclosure requirements “serve no legitimate purpose” and that he would “challenge” them.

Ripp did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Russ Haven, general counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group, an Albany-based government watchdog group, said in an email Saturday that such financial disclosure gives the public useful information about candidates’ work, assets and potential conflicts of interest.

“The non-discloser risks voters wondering, ‘what does the candidate have to hide?’ ” Haven said. “Since candidates know or should know this is part of running, if they don’t want to disclose, they can either change the law or decide not to run. But the public shouldn’t be kept in the dark.”

New York City similarly requires candidates to disclose financial information with the city’s conflicts of interest board.

Other municipalities such as North Hempstead, Glen Cove, Brookhaven and Huntington also require candidates to file financial disclosure forms.

Ripp told Newsday in a 2015 interview that his wife was employed but he had not worked since retiring from the New York City Police Department in 2004.

Ripp’s Friday email said he would “hold my financial disclosure hostage” because of what he said were “double standards” and the town’s failure to provide him with “certified” copies of financial disclosure forms of Republican candidates and a town employee requested under the state Freedom of Information Law.

Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr. said Sunday that he emailed Ripp copies of the forms after the ethics board provided redacted copies to the clerk’s office in September. Altadonna said he would not certify them as being copied from originals because he had not seen the originals. Newsday obtained from the town several disclosure forms, including those sought by Ripp, but did not request that they be certified.

In an email sent to dozens of people on Sunday, Ripp acknowledged that he had received the uncertified financial disclosure forms on Sept. 29. Ripp claimed the forms had been falsified. He didn’t cite evidence but pointed to a discrepancy in some forms in which the order of one question — though not its wording — had been changed.

Newsday last week reported that while Republican and Democratic candidates had filed their disclosure forms, independent and third-party candidates had missed their deadlines to file. Reform party candidate John Mangelli and independent candidate Jonathan Clarke said last week they thought they had more time because of challenges to their successful efforts to get on the ballot but would file their disclosures soon. Mangelli said the ethics board’s notice had been sent to the wrong address and that while he disagreed with the policy and wanted to challenge it legally, he nonetheless would file.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a good-government group, said in an interview Sunday that financial disclosure forms like Oyster Bay’s are “pretty standard” and the “most basic of anti-corruption of measures.”

“Constituents need to know what outside interests are influencing their elected representatives,” Lerner said. She added, “Someone who feels that their constituents are not entitled to know anything about them shouldn’t be running for public office.”

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