I watched the last regular City Council meeting online and don’t know whether to
laugh or cry.
The Council has voted to sue the City of Rye. And since those are my
representatives and the stewards of my local tax dollars, effectively I just sued
To make matters worse, the Council voted to finance my suit against myself with
my own money, and I also have to pay for my defense.
I’m feeling like Alice in Wonderland.
The four Councilmembers who filed this absurd suit were clearly hurt and angry.
They were concerned their reputations had been damaged by a ruling of the Board
of Ethics that did not go their way, and they want to clear their names.
I hate to say it, but elected officials are criticized on occasion. That goes with
public service. But by heading down this bizarre path, they have now harmed their
reputations far more than the Board of Ethics ever could.
You simply do not sue the city that you have a duty to defend. (I can’t believe
anyone has to say this.)
Originally, three members of the Council thought there was the appearance of
conflict of interest when the Council called a special meeting to consider a
moratorium on tree cutting when the owner of a property next to the mayor’s house
wanted to cut down trees. That’s actually a real conflict of interest, not the
“appearance” of a conflict of interest, by the way.
Since the Council majority proceeded despite those concerns, the minority did
exactly what they should have done: They sought an advisory opinion from the city
Board of Ethics, an objective third party with expertise in ethics created for
precisely this purpose. The Board is comprised of the city manager, corporation
counsel, and three experts, most apparently appointed by this very mayor. The
Board of Ethics ruled that the four Councilmembers had committed an ethical
The reprimanded foursome was especially outraged that the public learned about
the Ethics opinion. But the residents of Rye have every right to know that in a
dispute about ethics on the City Council, where the Board of Ethics came down.
Why would any public official want to hide that?
The reprimanded Councilmembers say they tried to reach the Board of Ethics to
convey their disagreement and were rebuffed, so they had to sue. Well, apparently
the Board does not operate that way, and it’s not hard to understand why: Allowing
Councilmembers to pressure the Board might compromise the Board’s
independence. If the City wants to reconsider how the Board of Ethics operates, the
appropriate city bodies can do so. But you can’t sue!
When the mayor publicly attacked the Ethics Board after the opinion was rendered,
he made his situation worse. But to sue the Ethics Board is beyond the pale.
The four Councilmembers need to stop this costly embarrassment immediately, or
resign. If they spend a penny of taxpayer’s money on this absurdity, they should be