Hartsdale resident Rodney Lederer-Plaskett submitted an amended complaint Aug. 20 to the Greenburgh town clerk’s office outlining the Bozeman Law Firm’s $500 contribution to the Committee to Elect Ken Jones on May 24 during his 2019 re-election campaign.
Lederer-Plaskett had previously filed an ethics complaint on June 12 against Greenburgh Town Councilman Ken Jones stating the councilman should have recused himself from any town decisions involving the Bozeman Law Firm, as recommended by a board of ethics decision handed down on May 8, 2018.
On July 23, ethics board chairman Doris Friedman said the board members decided in a private deliberation to move forward to Phase 1 of an investigation in Jones’ case, which entailed fact gathering. Friedman explained that Jones was to be served a notice the following day, July 24, and would have until the next board of ethics meeting on Aug. 22 to respond.
At the ethics board meeting on Aug. 22, acting ethics board chair Craig Zumsteg said Jones had requested an extension on the deadline for his response to the original complaint, as the date fell within the town board’s vacation time.
“We felt it was necessary to extend that courtesy to him,” Zumsteg said at the meeting.
Jones’ new deadline to submit his response to the June 12 resident complaint against him is Sept. 4, according to Zumsteg.
Prior to the meeting on Aug. 22, the ethics board deliberated outside the public eye again and decided to move Lederer-Plaskett’s amended Aug. 20 complaint to a Phase 1 investigation.
Zumsteg and board of ethics secretary Blase Spinozzi voted in favor of the escalation, with Christopher Cuomo recusing himself and new member Tim Hays abstaining.
At the board of ethics meeting July 23, Cuomo announced his recusal from the Jones investigation, citing his law firm’s ongoing case with the Bozeman Law Firm.
“I can merely say it’s an ongoing litigation,” said Cuomo at the meeting. “I have an ongoing case with the firm involved in the complaint … so I don’t want to have any appearance of impropriety.”
Cuomo then stepped out of the July 23 meeting.
Cuomo did not step out of the ethics board’s nonpublic deliberations before the public ethics board meeting on Aug. 22, but did not participate in the investigation deliberations, according to Zumsteg.
“I just won’t participate, it’s no big deal,” said Cuomo in response to criticisms brought forth by Hartsdale resident Hal Samis. Cuomo added that he would still sit through future meetings regarding complaints directed at Jones, but said he would not comment.
Jones’ new deadline to respond to Lederer-Plaskett’s Aug. 20 amended complaint is Sept. 12.
Volunteer counsel Joseph Malara said he thinks Jones will request a single date to respond to all complaints against him.
Following the filing of Lederer-Plaskett’s original complaint on June 12, Samis also filed a complaint with the board of ethics outlining the contribution Jones’ campaign received from the Bozeman Law Firm. Jones will also be required to respond to Samis’ complaint by Sept. 12.
Jones’ response to the complaints against him, which will either be a written reply or an in-person response at a meeting, will be open to the public.
The board plans to have gathered all information and responses to the three pending complaints against Jones in time for its meeting on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.
“I am aware of the amended complaint and intend to cooperate with the process,” Jones told the Inquirer. “[I’m] not sure about the deadlines and need to clarify that myself.”