Allegations have been made that a Huntington Councilman breached town ethics laws when he voted to approve a zone change necessary for Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius’ to move ahead with a proposed high-end condo development on his property.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson has conceded that he should have, while not directly violating the ethics code, disclosed tangential business relationships with Melius-owned companies when he sponsored and voted in favor of the zone change.
The ethics board has since cleared Cuthbertson, but recommended he disclose similar relationships in the future.
Cuthbertson in turn asked the ethics board to draft changes to the ethics code to better guide those who are bound by it, particularly, “…when a Town Board member or other covered Town official has been selected for a court appointment.” This will not put the issue to rest nor restore public confidence unless we get an outside look.
According to Town Code, Section 29-2: Pursuant to the General Municipal Law of the State of New York, the Town Board of the Town of Huntington must adopt a code of ethics with reasonable standards of conduct for town government officials.
After considering the question and considered this is a matter of New York State Law, this newspaper’s editorial board met and agreed unanimously to call on the town board to ask the New York State Attorney General to look into the allegations that have been posed.
This is not a criticism of our Huntington Town Board of Ethics & Financial Disclosure. We firmly believe that the Board, headed by Dean Howard A. Glickstein, is well qualified to render a proper opinion. Dean Glickstein, the Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Touro Law received his B.A, Magna Cum Laude from Dartmouth College, his LL.B from Yale Law Schools and his LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center.
Professor Glickstein was admitted to the bars of New York, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He was an associate with the New York law firm of Proskauer, Rose, Goetz and Mendelsohn. He served for a number of years as a staff attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Appeals and Research Section, where he helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was also general counsel of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and later staff director, before entering the academic world. After holding faculty and administrative posts at Notre Dame Law School, Howard University School of Law, and the University of Bridgeport - School of Law, Professor Glickstein came to Touro Law Center in 1986 and served as dean until June 2004. He is a past president of the Society of American Law Teachers. Professor Glickstein is highly regarded and rendered a valuable service to our town. However – that will not be enough to stop partisan cat calls and restore faith of the citizenry in Town Hall.
After reading the findings of the Ethics Committee (which will be in this Thursday’s Long Islander News), we believe that the Attorney General will not find wrong doing but may suggest ways to tighten the language.
The board should – at its Nov. 6 meeting – ask the state attorney general to investigate the allegations and together with the New York State Comptroller, suggest ways to make sure we never are faced with the ambiguity again.