To Members of the Ethics Board of the Town of Ossining,
In a recent issue of the Journal News, it came to my attention that the Town Ethics Board has decided not to hear the matter on the violation of the public trust by Ms. Catherine Borgia, former Supervisor of the Town of Ossining. This decision is quite disheartening and un-warranted. While Ms. Borgia is no longer an employee of the Town, a clear violation of the Town of Ossining Code of Ethics took place last year.
When there is a question of an elected official violating the public trust, the situation must be dealt with clearly and transparently. This situation with Ms. Borgia was not addressed in this manner. To let a resident wait 50 days without an answer to his complaint leads many to believe the Town of Ossining is “protecting” Ms. Borgia. The purpose of this correspondence is to clarify this situation, as well as indicate that I, as a member of the Ossining Town Board, do not agree or condone the Town’s actions regarding this very important and serious ethics complaint. Let me be clear that I would like the Ethics Board to hear the matter. I believe Ms. Borgia should have indicated that she had a personal relationship with certain individuals who benefited from a Town decision. Let me also be clear that in no way can she justify the fact that she took money from these same individuals and weeks later made a decision to benefit them. While the amounts of money are small, we are all aware of the recent criminal investigations, trials, and jail time of former elected officials who have been involved in violating the public’s trust. The public’s perception of such acts, large or small, is one of disgust and distrust. I share that very same feeling, and therefore want to have my opinions on record. I also want to let the public know that I will do whatever I can to make sure this situation is properly investigated and dealt with.
From my understanding, the Town of Ossining Ethics Board never received the complaint, never convened about the complaint, and would therefore have no official vote to deny the complaint. Furthermore, from recent meetings with the Town Board it was also my understanding that the need for our Town Ethics Board to hear the matter was important and desired by at least two members of the Town Board. I do not know when this decision changed. While it was discussed, let me be clear, the Town Board never voted on having the Town Ethics Board hear this matter.
Promoting ethics has always been an important reason as to why I ran for office. I often recuse myself from certain votes because of personal or political connections (both monetary and professional). I take this very seriously and would expect my colleagues to do the same, which is why, when this complaint was brought to my attention, I was immediately alarmed. I sat on the board that made this decision about the group home. I would have expected my colleague to disclose all pertinent information and I would also expect her not to take part in any negotiations with the families about the group home because of her personal connections and the monetary contributions given to her by them. Sad to say, the opposite is true.
What is most troubling about this whole situation is that the person accused of the ethics violation admitted she took money from a family that benefited from her decision. She also admits that she had a personal relationship with these individuals who gave her the money- even more reason to stay clear of an ethics violation and recuse yourself from any involvement. But Ms. Borgia continued to have meetings, sometimes with the organization and the family who gave her the money- without cameras, without minutes, without any public disclosure. With the recent problems many residents have had regarding the group home, maybe she knew something the Town Board did not? While I am not accusing Ms. Borgia of this, the perception is quite different, which is why she should have restrained from all negotiations and involvement regarding this decision. By admitting a personal relationship, admitting the receipt of donations from certain individuals, and her admission that she took part in a decision where these specific individuals benefited, an open and closed ethics case is contained within the recent Journal News article. A pass by the Ethics Board is a pass on doing the ethical thing.
Very Truly Yours,
Peter J. Tripodi IV
Councilman, Town of Ossining