The Hempstead Town Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to rescind a controversial cap on council members’ outside income that passed last year as part of former Supervisor Anthony Santino’s ethics reform package.
Santino’s package capped outside income for members at $125,000 a year, which would have precluded current council members Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman — both attorneys — from continuing to serve on the board.
King Sweeney publicly denounced Santino’s proposal as an effort to keep her and Blakeman off the board, after they engaged in months of sparring with Santino over his management style and ethics in town government.
Before the vote last September, Santino offered an amendment that to council members making more than $125,000 to stay on the board, provided they disclosed all of their clients to the town. King Sweeney said that disclosing all clients would make it difficult for her and Blakeman’s firms to do business.
Members of the public, as well as the activist group Reclaim New York, voiced their support for rescinding the measure at Tuesday’s hearing.
“I am all for this ridiculous resolution being voted against and done away with,” said Diane Madden, an East Meadow resident, adding that she hoped the board would take a critical look at the rest of the ethics package passed under Santino and make further reforms.
Brakeman, now the town's deputy supervisor, said the board would address the rest of the board’s ethics rules soon, and that the income cap needed to be dealt with immediately to avoid potential legal challenges and fees for the town.
Michael Watt, of Reclaim New York, said that the income cap was part of an ethics reform package that was “phony right from the start, and an insult to residents who have waited decades for real reform.”
“Outside income bans block people with real-world perspectives from public service, and make more career politicians,” he said. “Last year, Hempstead residents were sold a bill of goods with Anthony Santino’s take-it-or-leave-it ethics reform farce. Repealing the outside income ban is a massive step toward exposing that ill-conceived agenda.”
Among the council members who previously voted for the income cap as part of Santino's ethics package, but who now voted to rescind it, were Anthony D’Esposito and Dennis Dunne, both Republicans, and Dorothy Goosby, a Democrat.