Written by Rich Forestano Saturday, 28 June 2014 00:00
The Village of Mineola recently adopted a code of ethics to guide the village’s ethics board in financial or professional conflicts. Prior to the law adoption, Mineola had never operated with a code of ethics.
The code closely mirrors the New York State’s version, according to Mayor Scott Strauss.
“We’re tasking the ethics board to do a little bit more than they had done in the past,” Strauss said.
The current ethics board consists of Mineola residents Bernadette Pizzardi, Joan Hobbs, Russ Sutherland and Rev. Chet Easton of the First Presbyterian Church in Mineola. The board doesn’t meet unless an ethical issue surfaces, something Strauss says rarely occurs in the village.
“We’ve had always had an ethics board,” Strauss said. “I can’t speak to experiences because we have not had any ethical issues come up.”
The code prohibits municipal officers or employees from making decisions “that could result in a direct or indirect financial or material benefit, to himself or herself” to or to benefit a relative or interested private organization. It requires a municipal officer to disclose whether an action could, “result in a direct or indirect financial or material benefit.”
“Village trustees can call on the ethics board to resolve possible issues and ask for guidance regarding municipal practice,” acting village attorney John Gibbons said.
The public can also approach the ethics board regarding community issues, according to Gibbons. Strauss plans to appoint an employee to review financial disclosure forms, which must be filed by village officials.
“We want someone to actually review them and look at them,” Strauss said. “Rather than just have the village clerk look at them. We’ll have a second set of eyes.”
Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira was concerned with the ethics board leaking financial information online.
“I have nothing to hide but I’m thinking going forward, when something is filed with the village clerk and it’s public and someone makes a FOIL request, there’s a paper trail,” Pereira said. “Can they just put it online?”
Gibbons said the ethics board is bound by certain limitations and that the village clerk, Joseph Scalero, is the FOIL officer of Mineola.
“They are bound by their own ethics of not disclosing information they receive,” Gibbons said. “The ethics board is not the records access officer of Mineola. That is the village clerk. He is the only one entitled to disseminate information.”