Just in time for the first City Council meeting of 2012 and the delivery of Mayor Doug French's State of the City address, frequent adversary Ray Tartaglione has sent a letter to the entire Rye City Council charging all five members of the City Ethics Board have conflicts of interest that should disallow their participation in any potential ethics review of several issues related to Mayor French's primary residence as well as a second property.
Tartaglione sent a copy of the letter to Rye Patch.
At the December 21 meeting of the City Council, city manager Scott Pickup said members of the Ethics Board had been notified of Tartaglione's allegations and request for offical review, but did not say whether a formal ethics review had been requested.
Only "city employees or officers" may request an official ethics board review, according to the city municipal code. The code also specifies that any such review "shall publish its advisory opinions with such deletions as may be necessary to prevent disclosure of the identity of the officer or employee involved."
Ironically, despite or even because of Tartaglione's very public request for an ethics review of French's actions, any report issued by the ethics board might not be lawfully disclosed to the public since the code specifies the identity of the party reviewed not be disclosed. Consequences for a breach of ethics include potential fines, suspensions or removal from office.
Tartaglione's letter gives specific reasons why he believes ethics board members former Councilman John L. Alfano, former Rye Mayor Edward Dunn, current city manager Scott Pickup and city corporate counsel Kristin Wilson should step down, but does not mention a specific reason why remaining ethcs board member former Councilman Elizabeth Griffin Matthews should also recuse herself from any review of matters involving Mayor French.
Because Alfano and Dunn have prior relationships with Mayor French through the Rye City Republican Party, and Tartaglione charges, Pickup and Wilson may be directly involved in the matters he believes the ethics board should consider, the Council should require their recusal.
Tartaglione charges the revelation Mayor French improperly received STAR exemptions on both his primary residence and a secondary property constitutes a significant breach of ethics as defined by the city municipal code. In addition to the tax exemption issue, Tartaglione also accuses Mayor French of "apparent violations of Rye City building laws, zoning laws and property tax assessment laws."
At the December 21 Council meeting, Mayor French said that he was waiting for confirmation from City Assessor Noreen Whitty regarding the amount and years involved with the STAR exemptions on the two properties he owns. STAR exemptions for French's two properties may have been improperly granted for a period of ten years. Pickup said a change to the STAR program had delayed calculation of possible penalties.