HAMMOND – Will the Hammond Town Board’s newly adopted code of ethics have any effect on board members’ voting on wind energy development?
That was the big question from the public Monday as the town board voted unanimously to pass Local Law #1 of 2011 – the updated Code of Ethics for the Town of Hammond.
Only a few citizens spoke up during the public hearing before voting on the new law occurred, including Howard W. Demick, a former town judge, who first lauded the town board for the steps taken to develop the new law.
“This is a positive step forward,” Mr. Demick said. “Essential to good practice and required by New York State law.”
One area Mr. Demick commented upon further involved conflict of interest. He suggested that the document lacked a mechanism for dealing with non-compliance. Three additions are necessary, according to Mr. Demick, including a disclosure statement upon such a conflict arising; an ethics review board to review and ensure compliance; as well as a more formal identification of penalties and repercussions, if and when a conflict of interest problem arises.
“To address the Hammond wind law any further without this would be a mistake,” Mr. Demick said. “You are either ethically challenged or not. There’s no in between.”
Mary D. Hamilton, president of Concerned Residents of Hammond, said the timing for the new law couldn’t be better. With the current one-year moratorium on wind development set to expire in late July and the wind committee getting ever closer to turning wind law work back over to the town board, she said, the proof will be in the pudding.
“The first big test for this document is rapidly approaching,” Mrs. Hamilton said, adding, “This needs to be in place before further discussion on the wind law begins.”
Merritt V. Young, a member of the wind committee, was the final citizen to speak.
“If this law is passed,” he asked the board, “will present board members be required to disclose their ongoing conflicts of interest?”
Town board member James Pitcher, who has signed a wind lease with Iberdrola Renewables, has been recusing himself from wind discussions for quite some time. James E. Langtry, another board member, has not yet recused himself, despite a wind lease signed by his sister, Susan Dunham.
“There are members of this board who lack the moral fortitude to adhere,” to the code of ethics, Mr. Young said. “One of them thinks that ethics is just a word in the dictionary that doesn’t apply to him.”
Dr. James R. Tague, who worked alongside Mr. Pitcher in developing the new code, said some of the suggestions voiced Monday could be addressed through amendments.
“I’d like to see it moved forward as soon as possible,” Dr. Tague said.
Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram then made a motion to adopt the new code, with Douglas E. Delosh seconding.
“It’s a non-functionable law as it is,” Mr. Bertram said. “At this point, I would like to see this law passed.”
The board then voted 5-0 to pass the new code of ethics.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding