Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Greenburgh Town Council June 25, one of whom, current Councilman Ken Jones, is responding to a citizen’s ethics complaint filed against him.

The complaint, filed June 12 with the Greenburgh Board of Ethics by Greenburgh resident Rodney Lederer-Plaskett, stated that Councilman Jones should have recused himself from any town decisions involving The Bozeman Law Firm, as recommended by a board of ethics decision May 8, 2018.

Bishop Wilbert Preston, chairperson of the board of commissioners for the Greenburgh Housing Authority, refused to confirm whether or not the authority was still represented by The Bozeman Law Firm.

GBTC candidate Ken Jones.jpg

Ken Jones

Jones told the Inquirer he believes The Bozeman Law Firm is still representing the authority.

“Councilman Jones failed to comply with the advice of the board of ethics, putting into question whether the best interests of those most in need of low-income housing in our area are best being served and the letter and spirit of the code of ethics … has been followed,” wrote Lederer-Plaskett in his complaint.

Jones has been liaison to the Greenburgh Housing Authority for eight years.

Blase Spinozzi, the board of ethics secretary, confirmed that the board received the complaint.

In an email to the Inquirer, Jones said, “While I was of counsel, Councilman Sheehan … suggested I approach the Ethics Board. In an abundance of caution I asked the board for an informal opinion. They said while I was associated with the firm I should refrain from voting as a councilman on GHA related matters.”

According to Jones, Sheehan made the suggestion after being approached by a resident about Jones’ association with the law firm.

According to Sheehan, a suggestion for Jones to meet with the ethics board was done during a town board executive session meeting.

Jones worked at The Bozeman Law Firm from January 2015 to December 2017. In an article June 7 in the Inquirer on the three Greenburgh candidates running for two Greenburgh town council seats, Jones told the Inquirer the informal ethics board opinion he requested “was over two years ago and in that time period no votes were taken,” he said. “The only vote was the one on May 22, and on May 22 I did not work for the The Bozeman Law Firm.”

Jones is currently running for re-election in the June 25 Democratic primary.

In a town board meeting May 22, the agenda stated that votes on two resolutions would be held over for a meeting on June 12 — a vote authorizing Supervisor Paul Feiner to enter into a municipal fee agreement with the Manhattan Avenue Senior LLC and a vote authorizing the supervisor to enter into a tax exemption agreement with the nonprofit Manhattan Avenue Senior Housing Development Fund Corp. for the benefit of the for-profit Manhattan Avenue Senior LLC. The purpose of the second resolution was to grant tax- exempt status to an affordable housing project for seniors.

The Greenburgh Housing Authority oversees affordable housing in Greenburgh and is a separate entity from the town.

“It was very disheartening to have this board pull this from the agenda to be voted on tonight,” Preston said at the May 22 meeting, referring to the plan to push the vote on the resolutions.

Supervisor Feiner said the reason for holding over any action on the resolution was to give Ellen Hendrickx, who had just been appointed interim council member at the May 22 meeting, time to become acquainted with the resolutions.

“I think there is no reason why we shouldn’t have this vote tonight and move everything forward,” responded Jones at the meeting May 22. “I was not informed at all that this was being … held over for a meeting of June 12. I don’t agree to it and I move that we vote on [the resolutions] tonight as planned.”

Interim board member Hendrickx seconded the motion to vote.

At the same meeting, Councilman Francis Sheehan, referencing Jones’ ethics board inquiry, said, “One of the board members went to the ethics board and was told that he shouldn’t vote on it.”

To which Jones replied, “What are you talking about? That’s absolute nonsense. I did not go to the ethics board,” and he said the board never told him to refrain from voting on anything. “That is outrageous that you would suggest that I’d be unethical by advocating for the housing authority of which I am the liaison for. There is absolutely no proof or any ring of truth to that assertion.”

According to ethics board meeting minutes from May 8, 2018, Ken Jones made an informal request for advice on how to proceed in future decisions involving his position on the town board, his liaison position with the Greenburgh Housing Authority for the town board, and the legal firm to which he served of counsel. The board then recommended that Jones recuse himself from any decisions involving his firm and the town.

“The statement was made in frustration and haste and was inartful at best,” Jones said about his public response to an ethics board request. “What I meant to say was the board of ethics told me not to vote while I was associated with the firm. It is ridiculous to say that I cannot vote now, as I am no longer associated with the firm.”

After suspending the rules, Feiner, Hendrickx and Jones voted in favor of the resolutions on May 22. Sheehan voted against the measures, and Councilwoman Diana Juettner abstained.

“I still am troubled by how the events played out,” said Sheehan about the May 22 meeting vote. “I was surprised to see [the resolutions] put back on the agenda and I was surprised that [Jones] voted for this.”

Sheehan did not believe that Jones would be allowed to vote, per the ethics board decision.

“The ethics board would ultimately make that call,” he said.

Jones was officially employed at The Bozeman Law Firm until 2017, and was of counsel to the firm in 2018. He cut ties with the firm as of 2019 but currently pays the firm $1,000 per month to rent space for his solo law practice, according to Jones.

“From 2015 to the present I never did any work for the firm remotely related to the Greenburgh Housing Authority,” Jones told the Inquirer. “Nor did I ever receive any remuneration directly or indirectly from the Greenburgh Housing Authority.”

In March 2019 Jones began working as senior associate counsel at the Legal Aid Society of Westchester.

“I continue to pay rent at the Bozeman firm while winding down my solo practice,” said Jones.

On May 24 — two days after the passage of the resolutions — The Bozeman Law Firm made a $500 contribution to the Committee to Elect Ken Jones.

“This is less than 3.75% of my total campaign contributions,” said Jones. “I became aware of the contribution when I received it.”

Bruce Bozeman, the principal attorney for The Bozeman Law Firm, was not available for comment.

The ethics complaint filed by Lederer-Plaskett did not include the donation, as it was submitted before the release of contributions by the New York State Board of Elections.

“The suit is baseless,” said Jones in response to the ethics complaint. “I welcome the investigation.”

The next meeting of the board of ethics will be at Greenburgh Town Hall June 25 at 6 p.m.

(1) comment

halmarc

As a Town Councilman, Ken Jones has proven himself to be no better and no worse than his peers. And, on the vote which made him famous, he should not have done so. Even if passage that night was critical as it was posed, he should not have voted. Even if he was put in a difficult spot as liaison to the Housing Authority and frankly, Fairview, he should not have voted. Even if does appear that those backing the opponent challenging his franchise took pains to box him in, he should not have voted. But that's the consequence of down and dirty Party politics as practiced in Greenburgh. But Mr. Jones' story goes far deeper than what might be excused as a moment of indiscretion brought on by another Town Board member's needling: Mr. Jones , a lawyer in his day time job, has demonstrated that he knows only too well how carefully chosen words can serve a duplicitous cause. What is the shelf life of an "informal opinion", a fatuous category that the Board of Ethics (BOE) has no Code of Ethics mandate to opine. Was he hoping that it could be discarded since it was not a "formal" opinion carrying weight.? Clouding the issue is confusion over when and when he was not employed at the Bozeman Law firm. That he still appears on Bozeman's website, even though no longer employed as Jones claims, does not say much about Bozeman's professional accuracy and diligence as attorney. Mr. Jones "says" he is merely a tenant paying $1,000 for office rent while he winds down unfinished business. This would be established were he to provide the BOE with his cancelled rent checks for the problematic dates. Paid by cash? no problem! I'm sure the Bozeman firm has reported this income on its tax filings. Why such concern on my part if Mr. Jones merely made a mistake or suffered a temporary loss of memory in a hostile environment? Because Town Board watchers have learned not to trust him. That he lied so outrageously at the Town Board Meeting about his "forgotten" appearance before the BOE, he has earned by himself the scrutiny accorded one demonstrably truth-challenged. When the BOE gets around to examining his campaign contributions (either on its own recognizance, preferred, or requiring a verified citizen complaint) they will find in addition to the Bozeman contribution of $500 but also two lesser contributions from APPOINTED Town employees, Andre Early and Ellen Hendrickx (appointed earning the Code's only allowed "bad boy, no no"). But being truth-challenged is not a mindset used only to describe his own failings. In a recent Town Board Work Session, Mr. Jones was the Board's appointed member to defend Planning Commissioner Garrett Duquesne's Four Corners Redevelopment Plan. Probably thinking that whitewashing the Plan's origins would best be done by "it takes one to know one", Mr. Jones stepped into the defense posture coining a new phrase consistent with the Board's preference to ignore the obvious "word for word" use of a paid lobbyist's Presentation to the Town Board and invest their oath office in "similarities". Plying his own trade, Mr. Jones hastened to introduce the concept of "authorized similarities" as though the real author, the lobbyists would object and pursue protections under copyrighted material. What we have therefore is an official Town Board endorsed Plan which is near a third the work product of what amounts to a sales brochure on behalf of its sponsors paying an intermediary to lobby for a Zoning change in their favor. Indeed, the contested pages are clear examples of plagiarism (dictionary defined as using or passing off the writings of another as one's own). "Authorized Plagiarism" or "authorized similarity" becomes a contradiction in terms; something which does not trouble the Town Board. Even though photographs and charts were already correctly attributed to the lobbyist Inspired Places, the text borrowed was not BECAUSE Mr. Duquesne knew he would have a difficult job persuading even this Town Board to accept as a Town Plan any "vision or study" with accreditation to one source for text, photos and graphs. Even an intern might query whose Plan is this? But why am I taking up space to tell you this backstory? Because Mr. Duquesne already told the Planning Board (an "independent" board but under his ministration) that he was the sole author when answering a direct question out to him as to who wrote it. Mr. Duquesne answer "I am the sole author". To be clear, this too is not an "authorized: lie" "Birds of a feather"* flock together or is it the 'bold lead the bold' or is it a "bold-faced lie" exist as cute catch phrases that the BOE need be wary come their meeting Tuesday night. See you at the wake? *borrowed

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