A seemingly routine appointment to the Brookhaven Town Ethics Board turned into a war of words between town board members tonight.
The debate, which pitted town Republicans against Democrats, centered on an outstanding ethics complaint against Councilwoman Kathy Walsh a Republican who often votes in step with Brookhaven's Democratic Supervisor, Mark Lesko.
When the board considered the proposed appointment of William McQuaid Duffy to the ethics panel, Republican town board member Tim Mazzei asked Walsh if she was "aware that there is a complaint against you in the ethics board as we speak."
Walsh responded that she was not aware.
Mazzei said he did not think it would be appropriate for a town board member to vote on an ethics board appointment while facing a complaint.
Supervisor Mark Lesko asked Mazzei how he would know Walsh faced a complaint, as the ethics board's process is supposed to be confidential.
"A little bird told me," Mazzei said.
Town board member Jane Bonner, a Conservative, then said word of the complaint against Walsh came up in a closed meeting of town board members weeks ago.
"That was the little bird that told me," Mazzei said.
Lesko, a former federal prosecutor, interjected to say that the ethics complaint process has been compromised because it is supposed to be confidential.
"You're being a federal prosecutor, not a supervisor. You're not uniting us," said Bonner.
Bonner said the complaint against Walsh accuses that she has acted improperly by voting on town union issues that faced the town board. Walsh's husband, Bill, is a town union leader.
Lesko then began reading sections of town code that detail the need for confidentiality in ethics matters.
"You're not even supposed to reveal that you have any intimate knowledge," Lesko said after he finished reading the code.
Bonner began explaining that some details about the Walsh complaint are available on the town Web site, prompting Lesko to begin saying "are you done?" and "are you finished?"
Bonner loudly said, "No, I'm not done," prompting some cheers from the crowd.
Walsh then moved to table the appointment of Duffy to the ethics board.
When Duffy addressed the board, Republican town board member Dan Panico said: "Bill, we remind you, you'd be doing this for free."
After Duffy spoke briefly about his background, Walsh said he "seems to be a very nice person and it's not personal." The town board then voted 4-3 -- with Panico, Mazzei and Bonner voting no -- to table the issue.
"What a surprise," Mazzei said.