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Ethics board's Mark Cuthbertson decision questioned by Huntington residents

Mark Cuthbertson, a private attorney and longtime Huntington

Mark Cuthbertson, a private attorney and longtime Huntington councilman, whose largest single campaign donor is Gary Melius. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Huntington residents have called out the town ethics board for clearing town board member Mark Cuthbertson of possible ethics violations.

During a town board meeting Tuesday dominated by complaints about violence -- particularly the Oct. 12 murder of Maggie Rosales in Huntington Station -- six residents raised questions about the handling of Cuthbertson's case.

Cuthbertson was the subject of an Oct. 5 Newsday story about his March 2012 sponsorship of and vote for a zoning change for construction of condominiums at Oheka Castle. Cuthbertson did not disclose that he was working with site owner Gary Melius and Melius' daughter, Kelly, on two court-appointed receiverships, which earned them more than $284,000 in fees and expenses.

On Monday, the town's ethics board issued an opinion, concluding that Cuthbertson "had neither a duty to recuse nor disclose before the town board [zoning] meeting" that he and Melius had the appointments.

Commack resident Nancy Gamby questioned the speed with which the ethics board cleared Cuthbertson. "The ethics board usually takes six months to investigate anything, and now it came back in two weeks with a determination. I think there should have been a much deeper investigation . . . I have a problem that we have board-appointed people watching out for the ethics of the board."

Huntington resident Andrew Scanlon also questioned the ethics board's action. "It's cronyism, and it's corrupt," he said. "You [Cuthbertson] have violated the trust of us who voted for you and you need to step down."Cuthbertson said he sought a formal ethics board opinion because it was the only process available. "That's what I am mandated to do in the event there's a conflict," he said.

The ethics board is led by Howard Glickstein, a former law school dean who worked in the Justice Department and "has impeccable credentials, who is not going to risk his reputation for me," Cuthbertson said.

Glickstein said the board serves at the pleasure of the town board and would oblige if asked to step down. He acknowledged the board expedited the opinion. "The time it takes to issue an opinion varies. . . . We thought this was a serious issue and we had some responsibility to be responsive quickly rather than waiting."

One resident called on Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, and board members Susan Berland, Gene Cook and Tracey Edwards to ask for a county, state and federal investigation into Cuthbertson's actions.

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