Dark cloud already hanging over Utica’s “Ethics” Board process
August 22nd 2012 · 0 Comments
Utica, NY – The Common Council’s Government Operations Committee met this evening to discuss several matters. On the agenda was interviewing several candidates for the Ethics Board that has been unfilled since it’s creation in 1993. Mayor Palmieri has already made his two choices for the committee, Elizabeth Snyder Fortino, President of the Oneida County Bar Association, and Jeannette Spina, a retired art teacher who worked 35 years with the Utica school district.
The committee consists of five members, two appointed by the mayor and three by the council. Members will serve staggered five year terms and cannot be officers of any political parties. No more than three members of the board can be members of the same political party. According to documents, Jeannette Spina is a member of the Oneida County Democratic Committee, serving South Utica’s third ward, district five.
The Board of Ethics has pretty broad powers, as can be seen here.
According to an August 20 email from committee Chairwoman, Samantha Colosimo-Testa, R-6, the schedule for tonight’s interviews was: 5:00-Ron Gaetano, 5:05-Matthew LoMedico, 5:15- James Mason, 5:20- Mark Mazzo, 5:25- Michael Wicks, 5:30- Robert Walters.
Any other interviewees are unknown as the committee decided, in a contentious manner, to conduct the process in “executive Session.”
When several members of the media challenged the decision to enter executive session, citing that it was not a personnel, contract or disciplinary matter, several members of the committee shuffled down a dark side hallway to a dark private office to confer with their attorney, who was never seen. Upon returning, they stated that their attorney said this was past practice for appointments.
Again, reporters questioned that past practice does not mean it’s the law and pointed out that this was merely an appointment for a voluntary position on a board that is tasked with insuring the highest standards of ethical behavior. This reporter pointed to one councilman’s recent comments in the Utica Observer Dispatch that the interviews should be held in the same manner as a jury selection, citing that jury selection is open to the public. The committee still chose to go into executive session and cleared the room of all media and citizens. Councilman Frank Vescera, D-1, voted against the motion to enter executive session.
The New York State Open Meeting Law on executive session can be read here.
Check back for more details.