“The most important part of government is trust and if we can’t establish that it is frankly very difficult to run government,” Sag Harbor Village Deputy Mayor Tiffany Scarlato said this week when talking about why she believes members of the various village boards should be required to file annual financial disclosure statements with the village clerk.
And in a month, that requirement may become law.
On Tuesday, February 9, Scarlato unveiled a new ethics code for all board members serving village government. In a nutshell, it expands the now two-page ethics code to a more substantial law that would require board members to publicly disclose – verbally and in writing – any potential conflicts of interest they may have with an applicant. Every August, board members would also be required to submit financial disclosure statements, which would be held as public documents in the village clerk’s office.
“Right now, we literally don’t have anything,” said Scarlato on Wednesday, and with a lull in village business, Scarlato said she felt it was time to upgrade the law.
“It is important to have everything on the table,” she said. “I don’t want to discourage people from becoming board members – we are not looking to find out who has a mortgage on their house, but if a board member is a part of a LLC that owns property in the village, for example, we should know about it so we can ensure they are not making decisions on their own property.”
Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. noted the village’s existing code has not been updated since 1972, and since then the state has made a number of changes in its own requirements. According to Scarlato, the new code is modeled after the Town of Southampton as well as codes used successfully in other municipalities.
“The ultimate goal is disclosure and making sure everything is out in the open,” she said.
The board of trustees will hold a public hearing on the new ethics code at its Tuesday, March 9 meeting.
In other village news, trustee Robby Stein said he would like the village to look into whether or not to legalize accessory buildings as accessory apartments. The village has a program allowing the creation of accessory apartments connected to a primary residence, but has only received three applications since the program’s inception. Stein said the village should address the fact there are a number of illegal apartments still existing in Sag Harbor.
“The next step is where code enforcement and the building inspector are going to go out looking for them,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.
Scarlato and Stein agreed to meet and discuss an expansion of the accessory apartment law.
No Wine For Golden Pear
Lastly, on Tuesday the village boards of trustees sent a letter to the New York State Liquor Authority requesting it deny the Golden Pear’s request for a tavern wine license, which would allow the market to serve beer and wine.
According to a letter sent to the authority by Mayor Gilbride, the board is asking the authority to deny the license because The Golden Pear allegedly is in violation of village code with too many seats in the eatery, and the addition of the license would be a change of use.