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Jul 8, 2009 11:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Financial disclosure law went unnoticed in Southampton Village

Jul 8, 2009 11:02 AM

A Southampton Village law adopted nearly two and a half years ago, requiring certain officials and employees of the village to file annual financial disclosure statements, has gone unnoticed or ignored until recently.

The oversight was brought to light last month when Christopher Broich, a former Southampton Village Police sergeant and unsuccessful candidate in the last two village trustee elections, requested copies of the financial disclosures, which, according to the 2007 law, are public documents.

Village Clerk James Van Nostrand researched Mr. Broich’s request and found that no one had filed financial disclosures. The clerk took the blame for the oversight—the law tasks him with distributing blank disclosure forms to the applicable village officials and employees, and with collecting them, but he never realized it was his responsibility, he said.

The Village Board members who voted for the law also apparently forgot about the disclosure requirement, and the village Ethics Board, which was charged with reviewing the disclosures and informing the Village Board and village clerk of any that are deficient or missing, never did so.

“So many local laws pass that have nothing to do with me at all,” Mr. Van Nostrand said, explaining why he overlooked the stipulation that put the village clerk in charge of the forms. He said no one mentioned the law to him since it passed, and Mr. Broich was the first person to ask to see the disclosure statements.

Mr. Broich requested copies of the disclosures under the Freedom of Information Law on June 10, nine days before last month’s village trustee election. On July 1, Mr. Van Nostrand replied in writing that the disclosures were non-existent.

Mayor Mark Epley said he also is at fault for never asking Mr. Van Nostrand if he distributed the disclosure forms.

The law requires disclosures from members of the Village Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board, Planning Commission and Board of Historic Preservation & Architectural Review. The Village Board may resolve to designate other officers and employees of the village who must file disclosure statements.

On Tuesday, Mr. Van Nostrand presented a list of everyone to whom he is now sending blank disclosure forms. Besides those specified in the village code, he is also sending forms to the police, ambulance and fire chiefs, the police captain, the building inspectors and village treasurer. He also will file one himself.

Under the law, adopted on March 8, 2007, newly elected or appointed officials are required to file a financial disclosure statement within 30 days of taking office. Sitting officials and employees are required to file a disclosure statement on or before November 15 each year. The law requires disclosure of properties owned in the village, and any employment and financial and business holdings that could signal a conflict of interest. The officials and employees must also reveal if their spouses and unemancipated children have such interests.

If the Board of Ethics finds that any disclosures are deficient or missing, the board is to write the officials or employees to tell them they have 15 days to file a satisfactory disclosure statement. If they still fail to provide a disclosure, the Board of Ethics is to notify the Village Board and village clerk.

Mayor Epley said that if anyone refuses to file a disclosure, he will ask him or her to resign. If anyone is revealed to have misused their position for their own interests, he will see that they resign or be removed or fired, he said.

The same 2007 law requiring financial disclosures also requires all village officials and employees to reveal if they have an interest in existing or proposed contracts the village enters into with vendors and service providers.

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The real magic will be what is actually disclosed by those affected by the story. Who will resign, who will lie! Here is an example I will tell you about!

The Southampton Village Police "code of conduct" forbids police personnel from doing work for attorneys for obvious reasons. Captain Thomas Cummings, a former business partner of Chief William Wilson in the New York Security Group, is presently one of two partners of a security company / private investigative LLC called The Carlow ...more
By PBA (14), Southampton on Jul 12, 09 3:38 AM
Some people have a lot of time on thier hands....but it is interesting that the law was passed and everyone forgot about it. Hopefully it was just that, a lapse in memory, and not a deliberate attempt to hide unethical conduct.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jul 15, 09 9:42 AM