Supervisor’s Proposal Would Limit Outside Income for Elected Officials, Enhance Public Disclosure & Target Conflicts of Interest
Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino has announced that he will be proposing comprehensive ethics reform legislation, calling for a September 5th Town Board hearing on the matter. The reform package would place strict limits on outside income for elected officials, enhance public disclosure requirements and aggressively target conflicts of interest.
“I pride myself on holding our township’s elected officials, managers and all municipal employees to the highest ethical standards,” announced Supervisor Santino. “The package of reforms that I have assembled will comprise the strongest and most comprehensive ethics legislation of any local government on Long Island.”
The cornerstone of the Santino ethics legislation is a provision that limits the outside income that may be earned by town elected officials to $125,000 annually. This income limitation would be separate and apart from the town governmental salaries earned by elected officials. Additionally, the town believes that this is the first such “outside income limit” provision advanced by any township on Long Island.
“It is time for everyone in government to decide if they are going to put the people whom they serve before personal profits,” said Santino. “I stand on the side of the hard-working taxpayers who call Hempstead Town home, the people who I have been elected to serve.”
In addition to the outside income restriction for elected officials, a variety of other ethics regulations govern and control outside income, employment and consulting work for the township’s employees and officials. Among the Supervisor’s ethics provisions in this area are:
- Engaging in employment or consulting activities with entities that conduct business with the town is expressly prohibited, except if such undertakings are vetted by the town’s ethics board and found to present no conflict with the interests of town taxpayers.
- Speaking fees and honoraria are barred for elected officials and employees for presentations that are on/related to Hempstead Town.
- Both elected officials and employees are barred from employment or consulting agreements with entities or governments that would require the town employee to engage in actions that are in conflict with the town’s interests.
- Elected officials and managerial employees are prohibited from lobbying or engaging in the selling of materials or services to the town for a period of not less than two years after leaving town employment.
- The use of town equipment or facilities by elected officials and employees for private business or other non-town use is expressly prohibited.
- Service on boards of other public governing entities (except non-paying positions) by elected officials and town managers is not permissible.
- The acceptance of any gifts, meals, trips, entertainment tickets or loans in excess of $25 by an elected official or town employee is forbidden.
“I take very seriously the oath that town elected officials take to serve the public, and I expect no less from all town employees,” stated Santino. “That’s why I am placing strict guidelines on outside employment, consulting agreements and all forms of compensation that are inappropriate or could present a conflict of interest.”
Another key area of focus in the Supervisor’s ethics reform proposal is that of public disclosure. Santino indicated that transparency in government is the best safeguard against public corruption and conflicts of interest. Some of the “public disclosure” reforms being advanced by the Supervisor include the following:
- Online publishing of all public works contracts and contract bids will be required. The documents to be posted online shall include disclosure of all persons with interest in the bidding entities, as well as disclosure of relationship between those parties and town elected officials and employees.
- Elected officials and managerial employees who learn that they have an economic interest in any business or entity that has a contract or is seeking a contract with the town must immediately publicly disclose such interest.
- All elected officials and other employees subject to submission of financial disclosure will have copies of these documents posted on the town’s website.
“Public disclosure is the hallmark of transparent and accountable government officials,” said Santino. “This legislation opens a broad window on the operations of government, as well as the conduct of elected officials and town employees.”
The Supervisor’s ethics plan proposes powerful restrictions in dealing with relatives of elected officials and town employees:
- Elected members of the Town Board are prohibited from voting on issues that affect immediate family members (spouse, mother, father, sister, brother or child and step relatives). Such issues include hiring, promotions, transfers, leave of absences, extended sick leave, etc.
- Elected officials, managers and all employees are barred from having direct managerial authority over immediate family members.
“We’re taking steps to ensure that the treatment of relatives of officials and employees is completely beyond reproach,” noted Santino.
Santino called public corruption “a scourge on government service,” and detailed additional steps that his legislation takes to protect against those municipal officials who violate the public’s trust:
- Elected officials, town employees and others acting on behalf of the town are barred from continuing in such a capacity when convicted of a felony.
- Persons convicted of a felony are banned from being a candidate for town elective office.
“Today, Hempstead Town is in the vanguard of accountable and responsive government with this sweeping package of ethics reforms,” concluded Santino. “From limiting outside income for elected officials and enhancing public disclosure to targeting conflicts of interest, our township continues to put people ahead of politics and personal profit.”