The New Castle Code of Ethics was enacted in 1970, and although isolated sections of the Code have been amended since that time, the most recent amendment occurred in 1989. Accordingly, as Supervisor, one of my priorities has been identifying ways we could strengthen and modernize our Ethics Code. I'm pleased to report that the Town Board is now considering a number of important changes to our Ethics Code that will, if enacted, bring about substantial improvements.
The following topics are not currently addressed in the New Castle Code of Ethics. Based upon prevailing practices and comparable provisions in other municipal ethics codes, the Town Board is considering addressing these subjects in our Ethics Code through legislative amendment.
A. Treatment of Public
To avoid the appearance of impropriety, Town officials and employees generally should be required to treat all members of the public equally, and to refrain from representing, directly or indirectly, that their decision or action with respect to any public matter can be influenced by factors such as family, marriage, friendship or political alignment.
B. Ethics Board
Although the Town presently has a 3-person Ethics Board, the Town Board is considering increasing the number of members on the Ethics Board from 3 to 5 persons. The Town Board is also considering other changes to our Ethics Code that will strengthen the independence of our Ethics Board.
C. Recusal and Abstention
Our existing Code of Ethics does not set forth any provision that expressly states when a Town official or employee is required to recuse themselves from participating in an official action or deliberation based upon a conflict of interest.
D. Use of Municipal Property
Town officials and employees should not be permitted to use Town property, equipment or resources for private purposes, except to the extent such property, equipment or resources are generally available for use by all Town residents. Our existing Code of Ethics does not address this subject area.
Town officials and employees should not be permitted to directly supervise family members, as close relationships may interfere with their ability to exercise impartial judgment. Familial relationships also may result in conferring privileges or benefits not given to other Town officials or employees. Our existing Code of Ethics does not expressly address this subject area.
These are some highlights of the proposed changes. The Town Board will be opening a public hearing with respect to a new local law that incorporates these and other amendments.
It is important to remember that our Ethics Code serves two vital purposes. First, it provides standards and guidelines for the ethical conduct of our officers and employees. Second, and equally important, our Ethics Code must protect our public officials and employees from unwarranted accusations of bias that impugn their integrity, and which can have the effect of discouraging individuals from entering public service. I wish to thank my fellow board members for working with me on this initiative.
Robert J. Greenstein
Town of New Castle
200 South Greeley Avenue
Chappaqua, NY 10514