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Erin King Sweeney vows suit over income cap in ethics package

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney during the

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney during the Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, town board meeting. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney said Thursday that she intends to sue Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino to challenge an income cap contained in an ethics package the town board passed last week.

King Sweeney said she was planning to file a challenge to strike the $125,000 cap on outside income for elected officials.

She had opposed the measure, which she called a “political hit job” aimed at keeping her and Councilman Bruce Blakeman from seeking re-election in two years due to their incomes as attorneys.

Town board members approved Santino’s ethics package by a 4-3 vote Tuesday during a marathon eight-hour public hearing, with King Sweeney, Blakeman and Councilman Ed Ambrosino dissenting.

The income cap would take effect in 2018, or at the start of any elected official’s next term. Santino and council members Anthony D’Esposito, Dennis Dunne and Dorothy Goosby all are up for election this year.

Santino included an amendment Tuesday, which also passed by a 4-3 vote to allow elected officials who exceeded the income cap to file for an exception from the town’s ethics board, by giving a full disclosure of all their clients.

“There’s no question we’re going to sue Santino,” King Sweeney said. “I can’t wait to see him in court and overturn this ill-advised and illegitimate law.” She did not say if she would be joined in the lawsuit by any other council members.

King Sweeney also did not say when she would file the lawsuit, in which she planned to ask a judge to declare the law “arbitrary and capricious” and no longer enforceable.

In a statement Thursday, Santino said King Sweeney and other council members shouldn’t be afraid to disclose the source of their income.

“At a time when openness and transparency in government has never been more important, it is astonishing that an elected official would go to court to keep the sources of his or her outside income a secret,” Santino said.

King Sweeney and Blakeman rejected the amendment, arguing that it would require their entire law firms to disclose all their clients, placing them and the firms at a competitive disadvantage for all legal work.

The town board on Tuesday voted down 11 amendments to Santino’s ethics package suggested by Blakeman and King Sweeney, including an anti-fraternization policy, a requirement to post bids online and creating an inspector general position.

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