Former city council member found in breach of code, no repercussions – The Daily Gazette
NISKAYUNA — Ten months after an ethics complaint was filed against then-Niskayuna City Council member Denise Murphy McGraw, the city’s ethics committee found that she violated the Niskayuna Code of Ethics. the city.
In June 2021, Jason Moskowitz, who is now a city council member, filed an ethics complaint against McGraw after he voted on a resolution that allowed his daughter to be hired as a municipal pool worker.
According to the decision of the city’s ethics committee, a total of three similar complaints were filed regarding McGraw’s vote. Hamayun “Joey” Faizy confirmed on Monday that he filed one of the other complaints. Faizy filed the lawsuit just as he was running for city supervisor, a race he ultimately lost. He said on Monday he had not received notice from the council regarding his complaint. The other complainant is unknown.
The board’s decision says McGraw’s vote on the resolution to hire his daughter was a “technical violation of the code of ethics.”
McGraw said she voted by mistake and tried to email the city clerk to have her vote changed.
The council also determined that there would be no repercussions against McGraw because there was no evidence that McGraw had attempted “to exert influence over the decision-making or voting of the city council“, n didn’t vote on a similar resolution to hire his daughter in 2020 and is no longer on set.
The decision was signed by ethics committee members John Sharkey, Christopher Rust and Paul Santilli. Board alternate Heather Odom also signed off on the decision. Board members Tracy Cazer and Jill LaFlamme did not review the matter, the documents show. Concerns about Cazer and LaFlamme’s relationship with McGraw had been raised in the past and the two had previously recused themselves.
Moskowitz said he was glad the board made the decision it did, but disappointed that there were no disciplinary actions.
“Elected officials are, and rightly should be, held to the highest standards of conduct,” he said in an emailed statement. “It is time to move on, and as I have done since day one, I will continue to focus on working in the best interest of our residents.
McGraw’s attorney is firm that there was no violation.
“No ethical violations have occurred as there is no law, regulation or policy in the Town of Niskayuna that specifically prevents council members from voting on the employment of family members contrary to many many other municipalities,” said Matthew Tully of Tully Rinckey PLLCs, a law firm in Albany that is also representing McGraw’s daughter in a lawsuit against Twitter over an anonymous account.
Tully also claims that New York state law allows actions such as the one McGraw took when she voted.
The city’s code of ethics states that a member of the city council or employee may not use their position to assist another city officer, employee, outside employer, outside employees, member of their household, customer or customer , relative or “any business, corporation, association, partnership or other organization in which the officer or employee of the city or a relative acts as an officer or director.”
“An officer or employee of the city is bound to recuse himself from acting on [sic] in a way that may financially benefit a member of their household and/or loved one,” the ethics committee’s decision reads.
Tully also said the council did not give McGraw the opportunity to discuss the complaint before making a decision.
“My client requested and was denied an ethics committee hearing, which the ethics committee was required to conduct under city code before making this recommendation,” he said. in his statement by e-mail. “Furthermore, this recommendation was communicated to the press and not to me or my client, an unacceptable act by the ethics committee. Nonetheless, my client wants to put this issue behind her and allow the ethics committee to focus on serious and urgent issues that impact the city, such as leaks at executive meetings of city council meetings that may cause real reputational damage, or worse.
The ethics committee said in its letter to Moskowitz about its findings that it invited McGraw to discuss the complaint on March 23, but she was not present and provided no documents. The letter also notes that the board received a motion to dismiss the complaints.
The ethics committee did not provide The Gazette with the decision on the complaint.
Tully now wants the ethics committee to investigate how the information was released.
“For an ethics committee to be effective, complaints must be treated confidentially – in fact, that’s the law in Niskayuna,” he said. “The public weaponization of the ethics process in the town of Niskayuna has harmed my client without any legal basis and should be a lesson to the ethics committee, the town council and the community. I ask the City Ethics Committee to investigate how confidential information about my client and others has potentially been unlawfully disclosed in violation of City of Niskayuna Code 17-4 (F). I also call on the city council to review the city’s code of ethics to ensure that the violations of due process and breaches of confidentiality in this matter are never repeated because the code of ethics is put updated/revised.
Journalist Shenandoah Brière can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at SB_DailyGazette.
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