After convening and discussing a recent call for a formal ethics review of Mayor Doug French last week, the remaining members of the City Ethics Board–minus recused ex-officio members Scott Pickup and Kristen Wilson–decided last week they had no standing to initiate a review based upon the public allegations of impropriety made by Ray Tartaglione prior to last week's council meeting.
As , the Ethics Board cited the municipal code as clearly procluding them from acting upon a request for review not made by a city official or employee.
The three members also decided that they were not obliged to recuse themselves from any such proceeding. In his letter, released to Rye Patch, Tartaglione charged that every member of the Ethics Board had prior relationships with the Mayor that constituted conflicts of interest with regard to Mayor French.
On Thursday, January 19, Mayor French released a letter addressed "Dear Resident" that summarized the minutes of the recent Ethics Board meeting and addressed the alleged improper tax exemptions he received from 2001 to 2010.
Accrding to French's letter, the minutes of the Ethics Board meeting included a request that Deputy Mayor Peter Jovanovich "as a City Official and per our code" submit a request for a formal ethics review of Mayor French's receipt of allegedly improper STAR tax exemptions at secondary property owned by him at 13 Richard Place.
By way of Twitter, Rye Sound Shore Review reported yesterday that Councilman Joe Sack "supports an independent investigation of all city officials implicated in the mayor's alleged ethical violations."
Mayor French also said in his letter that he purchased the 13 Richard Place property as a primary residence in 1992. French said that the previous owner of the residence contacted the city building department to attest that the conversion of the residence from a two-family dwelling, the status which it was originally and legally zoned, to a single family configuration had taken place in the early 1970s–well before French's purchase of the property. The mayor said he is working to bring the property into building code compliance.
Regarding allegations that he had improperly received tax exemptions for the same property for the past ten years, French indicated a 2011 change in the STAR exemption application process had uncovered the erroneous reimbursements. French said the exemptions had been "misapplied" and indicated he would make full restitution of the improper exemption amount as well as any penalties attached once determined by the Assessor's office. French did not indicate exactly how the 'misapplication' had occurred.