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Ethical Dilemma

Posted on 21 September 2009

Where business and money flows, so often does corruption – whether intentional or subliminal – which is why we fully support the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees updating its Code of Ethics much as it did its zoning code.

Despite the current recession woes facing our village, the reality is Sag Harbor has slowly inched toward becoming part of “The Hamptons,” even while the year-round community might forever shun that designation. Despite our best efforts, and in part because of them, people far and wide have come to see Sag Harbor as a place they would like to call home. Our Main Street has bustled while others have not, and slowly over the last decade commercial and residential real estate in Sag Harbor has become a hot commodity, bringing with it the kind of people whose interests lie less with what benefits Sag Harbor and more with what benefits their own bottom line.

We remain fortunate to have a number of business and property owners in the heart of the village who truly care for Sag Harbor, but we ultimately chose to support a revision of the village’s zoning code because the writing on the wall was clear — new development was seemingly everywhere. And while we embrace a growing economy we also understand that government needs a set of laws to ensure smart growth. In the past, an antiquated code full of holes often left the village’s regulatory boards with little to do but rubber stamp their approvals.

It is not lost on us that the village boards are largely volunteer positions, with those willing to take time out of their lives, and the grief that follows unpopular positions on controversial issues, earning our highest esteem. We also understand it has become increasingly difficult for the village to find suitable community members to serve its boards – the Harbor Committee, Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board and Planning Board still without alternate members. However, we do believe despite these challenges it is of the utmost importance that our village board members, elected and appointed, be required to submit financial disclosure statements – a public document that ensures any conflict of interest is apparent up front, giving the public the ability to serve as a rightful watchdog for its local government.

This is not a groundbreaking request, and for those who are truly serving the village out of an altruistic — rather than an opportunistic — mindset it should not be a difficult request to comply with. We also believe it will accomplish a second goal. In filing these disclosure statements it is our hope board members think deeply about their professions, and in doing so, realize there will be issues they should recuse themselves from in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

We are a small village. There are some conflicts that will be unavoidable, but we feel it is best to lay everything out on the table. 

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