Tuesday, July 24, 2007


The Town Board deleted from the proposed ethics law the "gag order" -- the proposed code amendments that would prohibit officials from disclosing 'confidential information' and subject the offender to fines/removal from office.
I am pleased. THe Journal News published an editorial today (www.lohud.com) objecting to this provision in the ethics legislation.
The proposal would have been a major step backwards for the town - in terms of open government.


Anonymous said...

To the ethics board thank you for deleting the gag order. We as residents of Greenburgh need to know what is going on. With the four members who are on the board we all know that they do what they want when they want,taking away the policy of open government.We have had enough of their back stabbing tactics.We are happy that the ethics board is seeking advice from the outside. Samis had a good idea,since every village and town has an ethics board why not adopt the practice of hearing grievences outside the respective town. This would be the fairest way of doing things, I'll tell you why,since the board will have many grievences against them, they will not punish themselves.Who will be their judge.Samis had a good point,think about it,since there will be many things coming up in the near future,that will have a great impact on the four members. .

Anonymous said...

What was the outcome of the conference call with the brass in Albany,concerning the ethics laws.

Anonymous said...

Submitted by Richard J. Garfunkel

How to chill speech
From the Journal News
(Original publication: July 24, 2007)
Gotta love the Town of Greenburgh government. The officials are always up to something, usually each others' throats. For a taste, visit the town's Web site. Among headlines viewed yesterday: "EXTRAORDINARY SECRECY, FAVORITISM, VIOLATIONS OF OPEN MEETING LAW BY TOWN COUNCIL." Posted by some gadfly? Hardly. That one's from the town supervisor, Paul Feiner. And just above the notice of an upcoming event for "Greenburgh singles," there is this: "Supervisor uses Town email for political attack," which was posted by a "disappointed" Town Council - Eddie Mae Barnes, Steve Bass, Diana Juettner and Francis Sheehan. Such back and forth is commonplace between Feiner and the council. We suppose it would all be very amusing, if they were still in junior high.
Against this backdrop Greenburgh is considering a host of new ethics code changes; a public hearing on the proposals is scheduled for tonight. While more needs to be learned about exactly whose ox is being gored by specific measures, we join the chorus voicing concern about two provisions, one a proposal to ban town officials from accepting any campaign money from those seeking permits from the town, their lawyers, consultants and affiliates; and the other a rather Orwellian-sounding proposal targeting the "Abuse of Information."
In the first case, the campaign-finance provisions simply go too far; they would bind politicians and contributors in a manner neither contemplated nor likely permitted by the First Amendment. Having candidates disclose every nickel in contributions is necessary and altogether proper, but the wide ban on giving effectively shuts up both recipients and contributors, denying some the right to be heard in local governance. Greenburgh can't do that. Moreover, the contributions ban would not apply to political challengers; only actual officeholders - such as Feiner - would have to play by that rule. A restriction of such limited application should set off Greenburgh residents' fairness meter.
The "Abuse of Information" provision sets off our "1984" meter. It would call for sanctions including removal for officials who release any information "to which the public may be denied access" under the state's Freedom of Information Law, unless release has been authorized by the Town Board. To whom do you think that's directed? Feiner - he very often plays the roll of whistle-blower in Greenburgh, or odd man out - opined that the "Abuse of Information" provision could have a "chilling effect" on free speech. We agree. We also can imagine Valerie Plame-type inquiries into who leaked what to whom. There would be depositions. Perhaps lie-detector tests. The Greenburgh Web site would need to be expanded just to handle all the recriminations.
It would be worse than junior high. Greenburgh should think twice and again for enacting these changes.
A Journal News editorial
The Journal News offered the above editorial on Tuesday, July 24, 2007

From Richard J. Garfunkel:

In today’s Journal News, on the editorial page, we were able to observe two distinctive points of view. Mr. Steve Bass, an appointed Town Board Member, who ran unopposed in the last election cycle, has articulated his support of a draconian and possibly unconstitutional ethics code proposed by his and the Town Board’s hand picked group. During the regular Wednesday Greenburgh Town Board meeting, held on the 18th of July, the public excoriated both the “code” and its supporters, specifically Town Board members, Bass and Sheehan. Juettner and Barnes remained strangely silent.

During a subsequent hearing, the new, so-called “Ethic’s Board” withdrew their “anti whistle-blower” provision. With regards to that action by Supervisor Feiner, in today’s paper, was able to frame the background that brought about his actions. He stated, “Meeting in secret, meeting without the Supervisor, negotiating with two residents without letting the other affected residents know, planning a referendum in secret – all these are inappropriate to say the least, a violation of public trust for sure and violations of law. My e-mail alerted the town, and just in time.”

There is no doubt that Mr. Bass defends this clandestine conduct. He supported the inclusion of the “anti-freedom of speech, and anti-whistle-blower” provision until his own “select” Ethic’s Board withdrew it under public pressure. Thank the heavens for “Freedom of the Press!” Now he wants an “ethics law” that would limit incumbents from receiving contributions, but not limit challengers, like their candidate Suzanne Berger. It was pointed out in the Journal News, just today, that a large percentage of her contributions came from out of Greenburgh, some from out of state, and much from her law firm that benefited from a “no-bid” sweet heart contract pushed by Berger, in her role as the Greenburgh Democratic Chairperson, and by Francis Sheehan, a member of the Greenburgh Town Board. Supervisor Feiner, alone, voted against that “deal.”

It seems to me, because of this obvious conflict of interest, Ms. Berger should resign from being Chairperson of the Greenburgh Democrats, and should return those tainted contributions from her so-called friends. She claimed at the Town Board meeting, last Wednesday, that these were friends for twenty years. But her law firm only merged with Bryan Cave in 2002. Were most of the contributions only from her associates from the old law firm? She should answer that question.

Mr. Bass claims in today’s op-ed that the new “ethics law” poses absolutely no threat to the First Amendment. Where did Mr. Bass get his law degree? Since when is Steve Bass an expert on the Constitution? It seems to me that he should worry about his own legal status, in lieu of his clandestine and illegal meeting with the Board, without the Supervisor, and with two town residents. He should worry about the consequences of his secret effort to promote and push through a “phony” referendum on a moratorium on housing for Edgemont. We all know the details of that moratorium, and we all know that it was not over housing in the least, or the public schools in Edgemont. It was a backdoor, clandestine effort to fool the voters of Edgemont, get them all riled up over housing and obfuscate the true reality of the scheme. The scheme, articulated in the Troy Affidavit, that the Supervisor was given, and he exposed to the public, was to provide public funds to purchase land for a Edgemont Village Hall, and “grease” the way for secession. This was the plan of Bernstein and McNally. Ironically Juettner and Barnes, who attended the meeting or meetings, were oblivious to the true reality of their efforts.

So now they all support the “non-break-up” of Greenburgh. Where were they when this clever web of intrigue was first proposed? People who want Edgemont to secede from the Town of Greenburgh designed this scheme. What else is new?

Below is Supervisor Feiner’s full statement:

Acrimony mars Town Board
(Original Publication: July 27, 2007)

I agree with much of the Tuesday editorial "How to chill speech," about the ethics law proposed by the town council. Your editorial also commented on an e-mail I distributed titled, "Extraordinary Secrecy, Favoritism, Violations of Open Meetings Law by the Town Council." It happens that my disclosure of the events described in that e-mail was among the most important disclosures that I have made, and it has received the most significant public outpouring.
Readers of your paper should recognize that the action that the town council members took was, if true, highly inappropriate and disrespectful of the public trust, and a violation of the requirement that meetings are required to be open to the public. A sworn affidavit by Richard Troy, a principal of S&R Development Estates, claims that members of the town council secretly met with a developer several times and prohibited the developer from discussing the meeting with me or anyone else.
Present and participating at these meetings were Bob Bernstein and Michelle McNally, both of the Edgemond Community Council, an umbrella group for all eight civic associations in Edgemont. The purpose of these meetings was to provide a method for transferring the developer's property in Edgemont to Edgemont so as to provide land for a village hall if, as planned by Mr. Bernstein, Edgemont became a separate village. This matter of the utmost public concern was done secretly.
(The subject of the online exchange between Feiner and Town Board members was addressed in a July 15 article, "Developer claims Greenburgh officials conspired to derail housing plan; the matter was also addressed in a Wednesday letter by Bob Bernstein, "Feiner fails to protect open space." The accounts of what transpired at the meeting have varied. - Editor.)
Meeting in secret, meeting without notifying the supervisor, negotiating with two residents without letting the other affected residents know, planning a referendum in secret - all these are inappropriate to say the least, a violation of public trust for sure and violations of law. My e-mail alerted the town, and just in time.
One of the serious implications of the plan was that if Bernstein's long-proclaimed vision of making Edgemont into a separate village - a vision he has publicly articulated for years - and which now seems to have the support of this town council, the rest of unincorporated Greenburgh would suffer mightily. If Edgemont becomes a village, the impact on the rest of Greenburgh would be enormous. Town taxes would either have to be raised steeply, or else deep cuts in services would have to be made. For the town council to give support to Bernstein is outrageous. I hope that by notifying the residents of Greenburgh of this plan, I have halted the movement toward such a calamity. I believe that my doing so deserved commendation.
The town council members may deny that they support Mr. Bernstein's plan to break up the town and to make Edgemont a village. To admit it would be political suicide. Let us trust the old maxim that actions speak louder than words.
Your editorial rightly noted that there is acrimony in the town government. The reason is that the four councilpersons, led by Messrs. Steve Bass and Francis Sheehan, but supported by Eddie Mae Barnes and Diana Juettner, have decided to substitute a town council form of government in place of a Town Board form of government - a patently illegal act. Your editorial has opened this up, but I think that more watchfulness is in order. I hope that you keep that watch.
The writer is Greenburgh town supervisor.

Anonymous said...

please do not post entire articles - there is such a thing as copyright law in this country (it even applies in Greenburgh)

Anonymous said...

Anon; 9:20-

Get a life you moron! What in the hell does reprinting an editorial have to do with copyright laws? The purpose of editorials is to be seen, it is not proprietary slants on the news or creative work. It is a message to get out and be reprinted, buffoon. Editorials are opinion to be agreed with, blasted or to be provocative. They are not written to be missed. Go to a corner with a dunce hat on quickly thou knave and feckless cur. Methinks you are a vassal to the uncrowned King Zog II of Edgemontania and the illegitimate child of Princess Double Whopper Berger with cheese!

The Son of the Shadow sees and hears all, and even knows who you are. After the 18th, all will be revealed!

Son of the Shadow!

Anonymous said...

Ethics for Sale

It is interesting how Suzanne Berger, a lawyer for many years, and the Chairperson of the Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee, seems to not understand the law when it comes to contributions. Of course, she talks of “ethics” and her main patron and supporter, one Francis Sheehan, a member of the Greenburgh Town Committee, has crafted his own version of the Town’s new loop-hole infested “ethic’s code,” but she doesn’t seem to practice what she preaches.

A review of her latest campaign filings shows contributions from “Friends of Judge Ecker,” “Judge Berliner for Supreme Court,” and “Colangelo for County Court.” This seems to be not only unethical, but also illegal under New York State law. One would think a lawyer would know better? Besides those gifts, why is she receiving gifts from the Yonkers Democratic Chairman’s Trust Fund and the Mount Vernon City Committee? Greenburgh certainly has been in conflict over roads, development, and large future projects with its neighbor Yonkers. Does this mean that a potential Supervisor Berger would have to recuse herself from negotiations with Yonkers? I also see that Tim Iodoni and the Oxman, Tulis law firm also made contributions. Why are these Judges, politicians and Democratic Committees taking sides in a primary?

Ms. Berger also said at the last Greenburgh Town Board open meeting that the 38% of her political gifts, which came from her law firm, Bryan, Cave were from people she knew for twenty years and were friends, but her previous law firm merged with Bryan, Cave in 2002! Could it be that these were rewards for her work in securing a six-figure contract through a no-bid process engineered by Town Board Member Sheehan? Was there a payoff to him also? These are significant “ethical” questions that must be addressed. Is this influence peddling at its highest level? I hope that this “insider” contract is removed at the next Greenburgh Town Board meeting.

Richard J. Garfunkel