Advocate & Adjudicate? - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2247069

Advocate & Adjudicate?

The previous administration of [Supervisor Jay] Schneiderman and current board member Tommy John Schiavoni did not give high priority to monitoring appointed public officials for ethical lapses in their private life activities. This laissez-faire policy towards ethics enforcement appears to have continued with the current town administration under [Supervisor] Maria Moore.

The Zoning Board of Appeals processes applications for and holds hearings on requests for variances from provisions of existing zoning code of the Town of Southampton. The members of this powerful board are appointed by the town supervisor. The ZBA issued rulings have the force of judicial decisions. You would expect the members of the board to avoid involvement in issues that might come in front of the board for adjudication. One would also expect the members of the board to maintain a veil of impartiality.

Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, [John] Leonard and [Michael] Daly have become lobbyists and advocates for various projects pending in the Town of Southampton. They are certainly entitled to their opinion on these issues. However, the problem is they continue to be members of the powerful ZBA. Some of these projects can and will come for various reasons before the ZBA for adjudication. You cannot be both a lobbyist and adjudicator on the same project.

The second conflict of interest comes from the fact that residents who may disagree with the positions taken by these board members may end up with cases in front of the board. Can they be assured of impartiality when these members judge their cases? Mr. Daly and Mr. Leonard maintain a high profile in our community’s affairs. Can residents be assured of a fair hearing in front of the ZBA? This apparent conflict of interest can and will have a chilling effect going forward on dissent in the Town of Southampton.

Supervisor Moore must act on this situation. The matter should be sent to the Ethics Board for review. The Ethics Board should issue a ruling defining the limits of participation these ZBA members must observe in their outside advocacy and involvement with community groups.

Members must obey these limits or resign to pursue their activism.

Currently, there are apparent conflicts of interest plaguing our town government. Decisive action by the Southampton Town government is needed to eliminate this conflicting behavior and restore public confidence in our town government. The Southampton Town government must develop and enforce an effective code of ethics. Unelected bureaucrats cannot be allowed to usurp the responsibility and power of our elected officials.

Ray D’Angelo

Hampton Bays