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Ethics of Political Donations from Brynwood Partners Questioned

July 1, 2013
At the North Castle Town Board's public hearing on the Brynwood Club's draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on June 27, North Castle developer Michael Fareri said that he has learned that several town board members have received political contributions over the past few years from Brynwood Partners, which owns the Brynwood Golf & Country Club. Fareri asked whether the sitting town board members' receipt of the donations presented a conflict of interest and if so, should it be brought to North Castle's Ethics Board for a hearing?

Roland Baroni, Town Attorney, said there is time to bring this issue to the Ethics Board. Two current members of the Town Board are required to refer any case to the Ethics Committee, and that is the best way to do it, said Baroni.

The Town's website says, "The Board of Ethics renders advisory opinions to officers, employees and appointees of the Town of North Castle in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Towns's Code of Ethics."

The Board of Ethics members are David Simonds, Chairman, Rabbi Stacy Bergman, John Heimerdinger, and John Klem. The Town Board liaison to the Ethics Board is Councilman D'Angelo. Councilman D'Angelo says, "I do not have a vote nor do I participate in the discussion."  

Father Josh Conlon of the St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, who was the fifth Ethic Board member, resigned when he moved out of town, leaving the slot listed on the Town's website as TBD, to be determined. We left a message for Chairman David Simonds asking what would happen if a tie vote of the four remaining members of the Board of Ethics were to occur. Simonds has not yet returned our call.

Reviewing the New York State Board of Election's campaign finance disclosures, contributions were donated to North Castle candidates by some of the partners of Brynwood Partners: Tibor Hollo, Spencer Romoff, Edward Baquero and Jeff Mendell. They made donations varying from $100 to $1000 to John Cronin, Diane DiDonoto-Roth for State Senate, Friends of Bill Weaver, and Friends of Frank Benish during the period of October 2009 until April 2012.

Bill Weaver said on May 20, 2011, that he returned the contributions of $1,000 from each of the three partners who sent money to him: Hollo, Romoff and Baquero. At the time, Weaver was running for re-election as Supervisor and the Brynwood application was submitted to the town for a change in zoning.

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