Islip Town has amended its ethics code, adding to disclosure requirements designed to avoid conflicts of interest for town officers seeking to grieve their property tax assessments.
From now on, applicants seeking to challenge their assessments must state their relationship with anyone who works for the town. The requirement will be noted on application forms, town officials said.
The town code now also makes explicit provisions contained in New York State Real Property Tax Law so that when a town officer seeks a reduced assessment, independent legal counsel will be retained and the application will be made before an impartial judicial officer outside Islip. The town had previously operated according to that policy, but it wasn't stated in its code.
The change comes after Randall Weichbrodt, who is married to Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, spoke at a grievance hearing last May, requesting lower assessments on the couple's properties in East Islip and on Fire Island. The Republican councilwoman, widely known as Trish Bergin from her work as a television news anchor, was listed on the applications as Patricia Weichbrodt. The town board on which she sits appoints the town's five-member assessment review board.
A resolution adopting the change passed unanimously at a recent town board meeting. "Over 9,000 residents go through the tax grievance process every year, and this change is an effort to ensure no elected official or Town employee receives special treatment from the Board of Assessment Review as a result of their connection to the Town of Islip," the town said in a statement."The credibility in the public's eyes of the assessment function is critical to us," Supervisor Phil Nolan said.