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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 12, 2010

Questions remain as ethics board is named

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — The town, which has been operating under a new ethics law since Aug. 1, now has an ethics board.

In a unanimous vote on Wednesday, the town board named William Hennessy, Kurt Anderson, Patricia Snyder, Lyon Greenberg, and Christine Galvin to the ethics board, which will likely have a busy first few months since people have raised questions about the new law.

Cynthia Elliott and Robert Stapf, both licensed land surveyors who sit on the planning board, did not attend a planning board meeting last week on advice from their lawyers, they said at the time, because of outstanding questions regarding the new ethics law.

“No municipal officer or employee, for the two-year period after serving as a municipal officer or employee, may represent or render services to a private person, corporation, or organization in connection with any matter involving the exercise of discretion before the municipal office, board, department or comparable organizational unit for which he or she serves,” says one section of the law.

“I take that very personally,” Stapf told the town board on Wednesday.  “The law was written specifically to get me off the board,” he said.

“I have clients who are, quote, in the hopper,” Elliott told the board, meaning that she had already begun work for residents of the town who would need to come before agents of the town.  In one case, it would cost the resident thousands of dollars to have the work redone by somebody else, she said.  Her other option under the new law, she said, is to resign from the planning board and complete the work, “which, I think, quite frankly, is the goal.”

The town board unanimously passed an amendment to the law on Wednesday that would allow any person currently serving the town to resign before Dec. 31 and not be held to that stipulation.

Stapf had sent a letter to the town in July requesting an opinion detailing the effects that the ethics law would have on the kind of work that licensed professionals who serve on boards would be able to do in town.

According to the law, the ethics board is charged with rendering interpretations of it.

Greenberg, a doctor and longtime resident active in a Krumkill Road neighborhood association, was named as chair of the board, which is composed of two Democrats, Hennessy and Galvin; a Republican, Anderson; and two people who are not registered with a party, Snyder and Greenberg, according to the Albany County Board of Elections.  The law specifies that there can be no more than two members of the same party serving on the board.

Greenberg, Galvin, and Hennessy each applied for seats on the board and Supervisor Thomas Dolin asked Snyder and Anderson to serve in order fill out the five-member board.

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