Town rejects DeSena’s pick for ethics board

Town rejects DeSena’s pick for ethics board
Some members for North Hempstead's Board of Ethics are operating on unexpired terms. (Photo courtesy of the supervisor's office)

Another one of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s picks for the town’s Board of Ethics was rejected Thursday night. 

Rachel Fox, of Port Washington, was voted down by Democrats in a 3-3 party-line vote, with Democrat Mariann Dalimonte abstaining. 

Dalimonte cited personal relationships Fox has with both her and DeSena, a Republican, as her reason to abstain. 

“I made it clear to the supervisor that this could easily be presented as a conflict of interest,” Dalimonte said before the vote was called. “We really aren’t supposed to appoint people we have personal friendships with for obvious reasons.”

DeSena said Fox is an active member of the Port Washington community and someone she has gotten to know during her year as supervisor and that she is still a fine candidate. 

“Friendship is simply not a factor in whether someone is deserving and would serve well on the Ethics Board,” DeSena said. “It is not a factor we have considered before.”

The seven-member Board of Ethics is responsible for implementing the provisions of the town’s Code of Ethics, according to the town’s websites.

When DeSena took office, the Board of Ethics at the time was completely made up of members who were in holdover status and could be removed at any time. 

Its responsibilities include approving and reviewing financial statements, rendering advisory opinions to Town employees on the Code of Ethics and enforcing the code while determining penalties, among other things.

As of now, the town’s Board of Ethics is made up of Chair Joseph Sciame, Robin Bolling, Isma Chaudry, Rabbi Anchelle Perl, Rabbi Robert Widom, Justice Richard Kestenbaum and Betty Leong.

Derek Chan and Francisco Vazquez were both voted down by Democrats in a 4-3 party-line vote in October. Melissa Slobin was also rejected in a 4-3 party-line vote in September.

Of the current seven board members, only Bolling, Chaudry, Perl and Sciame are serving defined terms after they were appointed earlier this year. The remaining three are serving unexpired terms and can be removed at any time.

Council member Robert Troiano, a Democrat, said he appreciated the supervisor consulting with the board, specifically Dalimonte, on her pick before Thursday, something he was critical of in previous meetings. He added that despite Fox being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, her addition would be through subtraction.

“I’ve mentioned that it’s important that members of the Ethics Board look like the town,” Troiano said. “This is not a vote against Rachel, this is a vote for diversity.”

If appointed, Fox would have replaced Betty Leon, an Asian woman.

A previous version of this story was published. It has since been updated.

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