Mamakating board nixes ethics panel

By FRITZ MAYER
Posted 2/13/20

WURTSBORO, NY — The Mamakating Town Board voted six to one in favor of dissolving the town ethics board on February 4. The ethics board was created in 2014 in response, at least in part, to the …

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Mamakating board nixes ethics panel

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WURTSBORO, NY — The Mamakating Town Board voted six to one in favor of dissolving the town ethics board on February 4. The ethics board was created in 2014 in response, at least in part, to the wave of public corruption in the town and the Village of Bloomingburg connected to the construction of the development villages at Chestnut Ridge.

In June 2017, developer Shalom Lamm pleaded guilty to a voter fraud charge, and a year later two of his associates, Kenneth Nakdimenand and Volvy “Zev” Smilowitz, also pleaded guilty. The voter fraud was perpetuated to ensure that officials in favor of Lamm’s development project had a majority on the village board.

The advocacy group Rural Community Coalition, which fought Lamm’s development for years, posted a note on its website in advance of the vote to dissolve the ethics board: “Town of Mamakating residents are painfully aware of the corruption that has ravaged our community.

"There was corrupt, unethical behavior in both the governments of the Town of Mamakating and the Village of Bloomingburg and both have been well documented. The current Town of Mamakating’s ethics code was created in direct response to the pervasive corruption that had permeated the town for decades. Our town needs to continue to move forward, not backward. We have made great strides and should continue on this path. Please do not let the current administration turn back the hands of time.”

The new Mamakating supervisor, Janet Lybolt, argued that an ethics panel made up of members appointed only by the town board can lead to meritless charges and investigations. Her position is that the town will be better off letting Sullivan County handle any ethics complaints. The Sullivan County Board of Ethics is comprised of five volunteer members appointed by the county manager and confirmed by the legislature.

Further, it’s not clear that the county’s ethics board has the authority to hear an ethics complaint about a town matter. Sullivan County’s administrative code says, “The Board of Ethics may act only with respect to Sullivan County officials and employees,” so critics say at the very least that the county board of ethics cannot hear ethics complaints about town matters unless the county changes its administrative code.

At the public hearing on February 4, several members of the public spoke out against the dissolution of the ethics board, but the town board was not swayed and the ethics board is now history.

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