New trustee inducted, ethics code debated at Suffern Village meeting

SUFFERN- The Village of Suffern Board Meeting held on the night of Monday, February 1, and touched on many subjects.

The meeting began with the board’s induction of Joe Russo to the Village Board as a trustee. Although the board’s vote to place a new stop sign on Ramapo Ave. was mildly contentious-a conversation that ended with Police Chief Clarke Osborne speaking out in favor of the move-things began to really heat up when discussing the board’s proposed new Village Ethics Code.

“Ironically, the last time the Village of Suffern adopted an Ethics Code, Nixon was president,” said Village Attorney Daniel Kraushaar in referring to the bill passed in 1971.

Kraushaar continued, “Ethics is the most important thing in government.” The expressed goal of the revised Ethics Code is, “to have a more open, transparent and ethical board.”

Concerns surrounding the lack of said virtues in local government have proliferated in the Rockland County community over the past decade. Suffern aims to set a good example by revamping government accountability through the proposed bill.

However, not everyone was convinced, including local business proprietor and resident, Michael Curley.

Curley cited specific concerns about Section 22.4 of the proposed revisions to the Ethics Code, which prohibits village employees such as elected officials and consultants from filming or recording each other without the subject’s consent.

Kraushaar defended this by explaining that situations have arisen in other municipalities where actions such as those have created problems.

As cited by Curley, one example of a situation in which the recording of one public official by another in Rockland County became helpful to the public was when Melissa Reimer became a whistleblower on Ramapo town government. Reimer, the former supervisor of fiscal services for the town, had been in contact with the federal government prior to the FBI raid of Ramapo Town Hall in 2013 with information she had been gathering about Ramapo’s questionable financial activities.

Under the new Code of Ethics for the Village of Suffern, what she had done recording other government officers may be prohibited going forward.

The genesis of the suggestion likely stems from the Clarkstown case wherein Legislator Frank Sparaco surreptitiously recorded Councilman Frank Borelli and former candidate for Highway superintendent Dennis Malone allegedly attempting to strike a deal with him for his support of Malone.

Though this tape arguably led to Sparaco’s own downfall, it is not clear that the public would have been better off if it had never been made.

The final vote on the ethics bill will be at the next Village of Suffern Board meeting on March 7.

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