Letters to the editor

Ethics Question Posed in Tarrytown Candidates Forum

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October 19, 2021

Dear Editor:

In this past Sunday’s forum among the candidates for local office in Tarrytown, the moderator asked the three mayoral candidates and three of the trustee candidates what conflicts of interest might arise from their service for the village, and how they would resolve them.  Several answered that they would disclose all conflicts and recuse themselves.  One candidate disclosed that he already desists from engaging in his profession within the village while serving on the Board of Trustees, to avoid conflicts of interest.  Another disclosed that, directly after his prior service for the village, he began working for a developer doing business with the village.

No candidate mentioned that Tarrytown has both an Ethics Board and an Ethics Code.  Here are some important concepts from Tarrytown’s Ethics Code:

  1. Not all conflicts of interest are prohibited by the code.
  2. Some conflicts of interest can be resolved by disclosure and recusal, but others cannot; they require the village officer to desist entirely from engaging in the conflicting conduct. One example of the latter is described in (current) Code Section 27-3(1)(g), which prohibits village officers, after their employment ends, from receiving compensation from private parties for services related to certain kinds of matters they worked on for the village.
  3. A village officer may apply to the ethics board for a waiver of many conflicts of interest that would otherwise be prohibited by the code. The ethics board may grant the waiver if, for example, it deems the benefits to the village of doing so outweigh the potential harm created by the conflict.
  4. Identifying conduct that violates the ethics code is not always a straightforward task, and for that reason the ethics board is active in issuing advisory opinions to village officers and employees upon request.
  5. The ethics board could opine that a situation does not technically violate the ethics code, but might nonetheless suggest that the officer desist from the activity in question in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Here is a link to the Tarrytown’s Ethics Code:  https://ecode360.com/10672669

 

Fred Mauhs
Former Chairman of Tarrytown’s Board of Ethics

 

 

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