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Public suggests improvements to Huntington ethics board

Huntington residents have suggested several changes to revise and strengthen the town's ethics code, including having quarterly gatherings of its ethics board.

Other suggestions offered at the board's annual meeting on Wednesday included making the code more reader friendly; training town employees and elected officials in the ethics code; and making it easier to file an ethics complaint.

Residents also recommended better visibility of the code on the town website and increased transparency of the ethics board. Additionally, residents suggested ensuring the board always has five members, as specified in the code. The board currently has three members.

Nearly 40 people attended the meeting, with 16 people speaking, including town board member Gene Cook.

Howard Glickstein, chairman of the ethics committee, who has been working with town board member Tracey Edwards to consider revising the ethics code, said the next step is to review comments from the meeting and decide what to take to the town board.

"It was a very vibrant meeting," Glickstein said. "People had a lot to say and opinions, and we appreciated hearing it."

He said in recent years there have been one or two -- if any -- speakers and the meetings opened and closed within 10 minutes, which is why there has been only an annual meeting.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said part of the revisions in the ethics code will look at how best to fill the vacancies. Ethics board members are unpaid.

Edwards, who attended the meeting and took at least three pages of notes, said the town board has to "really think long and hard about how we can make sure that the updates to the code reflect the public comments, make sure the public not only knows we gave them a voice, but that we took their suggestions seriously."

Town code requires the ethics board to hold an annual meeting to hear testimony and suggestions on changes to the ethics code.

This year, the board was looking for input from the community amid increased scrutiny of the panel after its Oct. 20 decision that 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.

That decision came after a Newsday investigation raised questions about receiverships and business relationships between Cuthbertson and Melius.

Edwards said that at the town board meeting next month, she plans to offer a resolution to schedule a public hearing in May to consider revisions, which could be voted on in June.

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