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New Huntington Town ethics code requires client, financial disclosures

Huntington Town Hall is located at 100 Main

Huntington Town Hall is located at 100 Main St. in Huntington. Credit: Carl Corry

The Huntington Town Board has adopted a new ethics code that requires all public officials to disclose specific client information.

It also expands the universe of people required to file financial disclosures.

The new version divides the ethics code into three sections: a comprehensive code of conduct; expanded disclosure requirements; and powers and duties of the ethics board.

Board member Tracey Edwards said the town plans to train employees on the new code.

"We're also going to work with our IT department to ensure our ethics code is readily available on the town website," she said, "and we're going to summarize the code for employees, professionals and our community."

The board voted 5-0 at its June 9 meeting to adopt the new code.

Some of the recommendations include comprehensive training for anyone who does business with the town and posting the procedure of filing a complaint.

Edwards had been working since last year with ethics board chairman Howard Glickstein, the ethics board counsel and the town attorney's office to revise the code.

The town's ethics system has been criticized in recent months over the strength and enforcement of the code and questions of whether there is a conflict of interest for the town board to appoint the members charged with judging their decisions.

Officials have also faced questions over an Oct. 20 decision in which the town ethics board found no "technical ethical violation" by town board member Mark Cuthbertson, who voted for a zoning change that allowed a condominium development proposed by Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius. Cuthbertson and Melius had worked together on court-appointed receiverships.

Edwards said the revisions were based on the state comptroller's office's Model Code of Ethics and took suggestions that residents made during the board's annual public hearing in March. It also considered recent ethics changes enacted by the state and state court decisions.

At that meeting, town board members also voted unanimously to execute a retainer agreement with Leventhal, Cursio, Mullaney and Spector at $200 an hour. In February, the board hired the Roslyn law firm at a fixed rate of $15,000 to serve as counsel to its ethics board. The new agreement supersedes the previous one.

Edwards said the fee arrangement changed because the duties of the counsel have expanded to include additional meetings, conducting live seminars and help in designing a continuing education plan.

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