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Rye Deputy Mayor Requests Ethics Review of Mayor

RYE, N.Y. – Deputy Mayor Peter Jovanovich formally submitted a letter to the board of ethics at Wednesday's Rye City Council meeting, requesting that the group determine whether or not Mayor Doug French has received special treatment in both his receiving STAR tax exemption he wasn’t due and the investigation into possible building code violations on a rental property he owns located at 13 Richard Place.

Jovanovich said he was implored to formally investigate the matter by French himself after the board of ethics dismissed the initial complaint brought by local activist Ray Tartaglione earlier this month.

The current Rye Board of Ethics is comprised of City Manager Scott Pickup, Legal Counsel Kristen K. Wilson, and former council members John Alfano, Edward Dunn, and Elizabeth Griffin Matthews. At the Jan. 12 meeting, both Pickup and Wilson recused themselves citing conflict of interest, bringing the board down to three members. There is some public debate as to whether GOP board members Alfano and Dunn, who contributed substantially to French's mayoral campaign, should have also recused themselves.

At the time, the board ruled that it would not consider the case for two reasons: the complaint was not succinct, and the complaint was not filed by a city employee or official.

The topic, which was brought up by French, spurred debate among the council.

"I believe pretty firmly that this should be referred back," Council member Laura Brett said.

While Council member Christine Parker agreed with Brett, she acknowledged a deeper fundamental problem with the ethics board.

"The board is too small," Parker said. "I agree with your idea with referring it back to the ethics board, but we should reconstitute the ethics board and increase the size before it goes back."

Parker also said the board should no longer consist of former council members because of the propensity for apparent conflict. Instead, she suggested adding "exemplary citizens" like clergy and other high standing community members.

Council member Joe Sack said he was most concerned with determining the facts of the case before "punting" it back to the ethics board.

"I have nothing but respect for the board members, and I have no doubt that they feel they can be fair and impartial, but in the eyes of the public it's coming to this critical mass, and I don’t know if it would be the best thing to send back to them," Sack said.

"For me, the ultimate question is whether or not an officer of the city received preferential treatment," Jovanovich said. "It is my hope that the board of ethics will receive this."

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