Former chairman corroborates ethics charges against Kingston administration

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KINGSTON – The latest set of ethics charges, levied against Mayor Steven Noble and Corporation Counsel Kevin Bryant, have been generally confirmed by former ethics board Chairwoman Jean Jacobs.
The case must be reviewed by a completely new ethics board, and then certified by the mayor himself, according to current law.
Circumstances surround a chain of events, combined with an overlapping cast of characters.
The plaintiff is political gadfly Joe DiFalco, who recently became the Ulster County Independence Party chairman. He alleges that the mayor and city attorney improperly granted a waiver to a former alderman so that he could consult in private practice with the city.
“We, as a board, were never presented with a waiver form, ever. End of story,” former Ethics Chairwoman Jean Jacobs told Mid-Hudson News.   “A waiver has to be obtained from the city clerk. Then the waiver, with a compelling reason, has to be presented by the person requesting it, to the ethics board.”  
Jacobs echoes DiFalco’s claim, noting the alleged waiver was merely discussed at the April 16th conference, but never formally granted.   Jacobs added that it was the city clerk’s responsibility to provide the blank forms.  She indicated willingness to testify before the new ethics board, but indicated that she has not yet been contacted by anyone.
The current charges were briefly discussed on September 15, with replacement board members, who will meet again for the second time on Monday night, November 7, at City Hall.
The sessions are quasi-secret in nature, only bits and pieces are made available to the public. There must first be a guilty verdict, and mayoral approval, otherwise the records remain under seal.
Earlier charges filed last year by DiFalco before the previous ethics board, resulted in the downfall of former 3rd Ward Alderman Brad Will.
The new board is reviewing DiFalco’s third round of charges, which accuse Noble and Bryant of improperly facilitating the waiver for Will, allowing him to represent clients before city agencies.
Without a proper waiver, Will, at the time, was subject to a revolving door provision in the old ethics code. Those prohibitions have since been eliminated, in revisions enacted on September 26.
DiFalco’s latest complaint was filed July 6, before the law was changed. He ruffled feathers last September, when he publicly declared “I will haunt you [Mayor Noble] for the rest of your administration.”
Today’s ethics board is inexperienced; they met for the first time two months ago, after Noble entirely dismissed the previous members in May. The reconstituted board spent their initial session trying to determine basic facts, learning how to proceed.
Letters requesting the waiver were improperly sent to Jacobs on April 8 via email, instead of through the city clerk’s office. That was the same day Will resigned from office. Jacobs consulted her files, and confirmed receipt of the letters. Her account explains the mystery of why those exhibits cannot be found in city files, were not time stamped, and went missing from FOIL requests answered in May.
Brad Will several times sought waiver forms from the city clerk, but they had none to provide. Jacobs forwarded the e-mail requests to independent attorney Michael Sussman, who eventually got dismissed during the April 16 conference, at the insistence of Bryant, over Jacobs’ objection.
“If [the Ethics Board] needs to have legal representation, guidance, or direction, you need to have an independent attorney, you cannot have the city attorney, because they work for the mayor; it’s as simple as that,” Jacobs maintained.