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Huntington residents weigh in on town ethics code

Ethics board members listened to grievances from local

Ethics board members listened to grievances from local residents at the annual ethics board meeting at Huntington Town Hall on March 18, 2015. Credit: David Wexler

A cadre of residents were mostly pleased Tuesday that steps have been taken to strengthen and make the Huntington Town ethics code more transparent and enforceable, but they said more needs to be done.

Fewer than 10 people addressed the board at a public hearing at town hall.

Longtime Huntington resident Michael Kornfeld said he thinks the changes are a "marked improvement" over the recently repealed code.

"The words of the code, while strong, can only do so much," he said Tuesday. "Education and enforcement are key."

Town board member Tracey Edwards has been working with ethics board chairman Howard Glickstein, the ethics board counsel and the town attorney's office to revise the code since last year. She said the revisions were based on the New York State Comptroller's office Model Code of Ethics.

The new version divides the ethics code into three sections: a clear and comprehensive code of conduct; expanded disclosure requirements; and powers and duties of the ethics board. It expands the universe of people required to file financial disclosures to include policymakers and requires all public officials to disclose specific client information.

Edwards said the team took recommendations and suggestions that residents made during the board's annual public hearing in March, and recent ethics changes enacted by the state and state court decisions.

Some of the recommendations include comprehensive training for anyone who does business with the town; the creation of a user-friendly ethics code document to be placed prominently on the town website; and posting the procedure of filing a complaint.

"We're progressing," Edwards said Tuesday. "This is the next step in the process."

Dix Hills resident Tom McNally, a member of the Huntington Republican Committee, said some of his group's recommendations will be included in the revised code. "I will be submitting further recommendations or fine points to really hopefully put together on a bipartisan combined effort the strongest code of ethics we can have," he said.

Commack resident Nancy Gambycomplained that she did not have access to the revisions -- almost two dozen pages -- until shortly before the meeting. "It's kind of hard for anybody to read through it to understand all the questions they might have," Gamby said.

Since the revisions were not easily found on the website, Edwards said she plans to have a link put on the town's homepage and that the town will take public comments on the changes until May 19. Adoption of the code revisions are expected to be done in June.

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