Balancing his non-negotiable priority of battling conflicts of interest on the part of Hempstead Town’s elected officials with the desire of certain Town Board members to earn substantial outside (non-government) income, Supervisor Anthony J. Santino has amended his sweeping ethics reform package. The strengthened plan retains its commitment to greatly enhanced public disclosure and strongly targets conflicts of interest. At the same time, the Santino legislation offers an alternative to the $125,000 cap on outside income for the town’s elected officials in the form of stringent public disclosure requirements related to the sources of non-town income for members of the Town Board.
“I am committed to advancing the strongest ethics reform proposal of any local official on Long Island,” said Santino. “At the same time, I recognize the importance of addressing the concerns put forth by some members of Town Board. That’s why I have amended my proposal to include an even more vigorous alternative to the cap on outside income for elected officials. By providing for stringent public disclosure on all sources of outside income as an option to the salary cap, we will be able to accomplish the same goal of safeguarding our taxpayers against conflicts of interest on the part of Town Board members. That’s a ‘win-win’ for all parties involved.”
In specific, Santino’s amendment retains his provision for a cap of $125,000 on outside income for elected officials; however, it offers a “full disclosure” alternative to the salary cap. The “full disclosure” alternative allows elected officials to disclose all clients for whom they work/consult, as well as all clients who are represented by any outside firms or companies for which the official works, consults or serves an associate or partner. The Supervisor observed that such thorough disclosure would have the same effect as a cap on outside income with respect to ensuring that elected officials do not have conflicts of interest.
In addition to the outside income/”full disclosure” provision, a variety of other regulations would govern outside income, employment and consulting work for the township’s employees and officials under the Supervisor’s proposal. A prohibition against working for entities that do business with the town (except in cases where the town’s ethics commission authorizes such work), a ban on speaking fees and a two-year ban on “lobbying” Hempstead government officials by former town employees (from the date the employee leaves town employment) are highlights included in the Supervisor’s plan.
Transparency and public disclosure are key areas of focus under Santino’s ethics plan. The Supervisor’s ethics package incorporates online publishing of all contracts and contract bids, as well as online posting of financial disclosure documents for town elected officials and managers.
“Public disclosure is the hallmark of transparent and accountable government officials,” said Santino. “This legislation proposal opens a broad window on the operations of government, as well as the conduct of elected officials and town employees.”
The Supervisor’s plan places meaningful restrictions on dealing with relatives of elected officials and town employees. Indeed his plan prohibits Town Board members from voting on issues that affect immediate family members (raises, promotions, transfers, etc.). Additionally, elected officials, managers and all employees are barred from having direct managerial authority over immediate family members.
Taking direct aim at public corruption, the Santino proposal bars elected officials and town employees continuing in their public service capacity if they are convicted of a felony. Further, convicted felons are banned from being candidates for town elected office under the plan.
“The law that I am proposing puts our town in the forefront of transparent and accountable government,” concluded Santino. “By providing for limits on outside income for elected officials, implementing stringent public disclosure requirements and adding safeguards against conflicts of interest, our town will continue to put people ahead of politics and personal profit.”