The Same Goal - 27 East

Letters

Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1734385

The Same Goal

Openness, accountability and honesty define government transparency. The current Southampton Village Board of Trustees supports a strong ethics program to promote transparency. This program was revitalized in 2017 by former Mayor Michael Irving and promoted by former Trustee Kimberly Allan.

The Board of Ethics has two objectives: (a) to promote public confidence by ensuring both the reality and the appearance of integrity in village government, and (b) to guide and protect employees, elected and appointed officials, by helping everyone to avoid unintended ethics violations before they occur.

The Board of Ethics assisted the former Board of Trustees in thoroughly updating its ethics code (village code Chapter 7). It improved annual financial disclosure statements to address potential conflicts of interest. It issued advisory opinions to address complaints and provided ethical guidance upon request. The board has implemented a regular ethics training program for employees, elected and appointed officials.

As chair of this board, I am proud of the work its members have done voluntarily to promote a transparent government. We welcome to the board our newest members, the Reverend Stephen Peiffer and, more recently, Teresa Melhado. She is a lawyer by training, with strong knowledge in government ethics, an essential asset for the board.

Southampton Village has some of the best resources this country has to offer, not only by its historical character and location but also by the intellectual capital of its residents.

The Budget and Finance Committee is made up of talented volunteers who have solid government and business experience. The advisory capacity of this committee to serve the Board of Trustees was recently well-documented by its chair in this space [“Just Giving Advice,” Letters, October 22].

Promoting the idea that some volunteers on committees are engaged in a “shadow government” [“Shadow Government,” Letters, October 29] flies in the face of what former Trustee Allen and the current Board of Trustees have built and maintained with a strong ethics program.

Dane Neller is a long-standing resident of the village, a successful entrepreneur, who is volunteering his time to improve the finances of the village. The suggestion that his actions and recommendation for the recruitment of a village assistant represent a conflict of interest is nefarious.

In addition, all committee members are bound by village code to maintain confidential information, and “no current or former village officer or employee shall disclose confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the village or any other confidential information of an official character obtained as a result of village employment.”

This community appears divided, but it shares the same goals. The Board of Ethics’ goal remains to promote government transparency, whatever the makeover of the Board of Trustees.

Christian Picot

Chair

Board of Ethics

Southampton Village

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