Comptroller, Yonkers agencies asked to investigate alleged ethics violations involving Yonkers mayor
The State Comptroller's Office and two Yonkers agencies have been asked to investigate alleged ethics violations involving Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. An investigation by the Journal News found 14 of the mayor's relatives work for the city. Originally, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah received a request from a political group to investigate. The DA's office says that request didn't include any allegation of criminality. The DA forwarded the request to the state comptroller, the Yonkers Board of Ethics and the Yonkers inspector general. The State Comptroller's Office says it's reviewing the letter, but this is already playing a role in the upcoming Democratic primary in which Spano is being challenged in his quest for a fourth term by City Council Member Corazón Pineda-Isaac and Pastor/educator Margaret Fountain-Coleman. The mayor wrote in part: "Many individuals were employed before I became mayor, and the vast majority are in tested civil service positions. There is nothing here to investigate." The inspector general backed him up, saying the office has always been reluctant to get into political disputes. "No one can be precluded from being a police officer, firefighter or a DPW worker because their relative is a mayor or member of the City Council," Liam McLaughlin wrote. Pineda-Isaac and Fountain-Coleman believe there is something to investigate. "We don't know what we don't know, so it's incumbent of us to find all the answers," said Pineda-Isaac. "I've been in Yonkers nine years and that's always been the undercurrent story," said Fountain-Coleman Both think the DA did the right thing, but neither is optimistic anyone appointed by the mayor will do a thorough, fair investigation. They hope the State Comptroller's Office will. "And then, the voters, the residents can be assured a comprehensive investigation took place," said Fountain-Coleman. Council Member Anthony Merante, a Republican hopeful for mayor, says the legal process should take its course and that he's proud he just has one family member on the city payroll - a cousin who worked for the Board of Education more than 17 years before he was elected.
Statement from Liam J. McLaughlin, Yonkers Inspector General:
"From its inception, the office of the Inspector General has been reluctant to get involved in blatantly political disputes like this one. The Mayor comes from a large family, one that has rights that extend beyond the Mayor. His family members have the right to work for the City of Yonkers, and the New York State Civil Service Law and the Code of Ethics protect those rights. No one can be precluded from being a Police Officer, Firefighter or a DPW worker because their relative is a Mayor or member of the City Council. The Civil Service Law protects government employees from political retribution and it grants rights to those that would unfairly be denied employment because of a relative’s position in public office. The unsigned letter from a political organization presents no facts in violation of the Law or Code of Ethics."
Statement from Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano: “I am pleased, but not surprised, the DA has rejected this unfounded request for an investigation, citing no allegation of criminality. My familial connections as they relate to City employment are public and have been disclosed annually during my 12 years in office. Many individuals were employed before I became mayor, and the vast majority are in tested civil service positions. There is nothing here to investigate.”
Statement from Councilmember Anthony Merante:
“These are significant allegations and certainly warrant investigation. The legal process should take its course. I’m proud to say I have no family members on the City payroll except a cousin who has worked for the Board of Education for over 25 years. That’s more than 17 years before I was elected to the City Council. In addition, I’m the ONLY City Councilmember who has refused a City Car and free gas. I don’t believe Yonkers taxpayers should be paying for my vehicle. It’s wrong for elected officials to enrich themselves or their families or anyway profiteer from their public service. That would be a serious violation of the public trust.