New questions have surfaced on the proposed Bellone administration appointment of environmental consultant Errol Kitt to the county planning commission, and a board of ethics opinion may be necessary before Kitt can move forward.
The questions arose because the website of the company where Kitt works, GEI Consultants, in several places describes itself an “employee-owned firm.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Kitt, a company vice president and Long Island office head, only owns shares in his firm, not an ownership stake.
Under county ethic rules, “no public servant shall have an ownership interest in a firm which such public servant knows is engaged in business dealings with the department or agency served by such public servant.” A public servant is one who serves the county on a paid or unpaid basis.
GEI has a $100,000 contract with the county to design a ladder to allow fish to migrate upstream and has worked for Suffolk in the past.
In one website video, senior project manager Ginger Gillin says, “one of the most important aspects of working at GEI is that employees own the company. . . . We have skin in the game, so it matters in a very personal way that projects are managed efficiently and profitably because it has a direct impact on you.”
Kitt’s appointment was sent to the full legislature without recommendation last week.
Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said getting an ethics opinion is important in light of how the company is portrayed on the website
“I think we should look at this carefully” Hahn said.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Bellone spokeswoman, said Kitt’s shares in GEI are worth about $209,000, not enough to constitute an ownership stake. Baird-Streeter said that is less than 5 percent of the firm’s market capitalization, and that Kitt is not on the board of directors and does not have a role in setting company policy.
The Suffolk County Legislature has scheduled a vote on Kitt’s nomination to the planning commission for Tuesday.
The next day, there is a scheduled commission vote for a new chairman. For the first time there is a contested election: Huntington attorney Jennifer Casey faces developer Michael Kelly.
Kitt and another nominee to the commission, Keith Morehead, chief operating officer of Shelter Island South Ferry, could be crucial swing votes in a close election for the chairmanship. Neither has disclosed whom they may support.
If lawmakers decide an ethics opinion is needed, it could delay Kitt’s appointment and keep him from voting on a new chairman.
Mitchell Pally, chief executive officer of the Long Island Builders Institute, said his group supports Kelly for commission chair. Pally said his members are hopeful the new commission nominees will support Kelly, but he has done no lobbying, and only given his opinion to lawmakers who have asked.