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Ethics in Town Government

by on April 11, 2012

An elected public official has the responsibility to act in the best interest of the town. When the public loses confidence that an official is fulfilling that obligation, due to a conflict of personal gain vs. fiduciary responsibility, it is time for that official to go.

At a Board of Finance meeting last month, Maria Moore was confronted with a conflict. She could not deny the conflict, or defend it. The news site that she controls, NewHartfordPlus.com, accepts advertising dollars from the library. As a Board of Finance member, Mrs. Moore, plays a large part in determining the library’s taxpayer funding. The conflict is clear. What did she do? Mrs. Moore did not remove herself from the conflict, but instead chose to accuse her fellow board members of having similar conflicts.

This situation is of great concern to me, as I’m sure it is to you. I would hope that Board of Finance members will answer Mrs. Moore’s accusations and disclose or deny their own conflicts on the public record at their next meeting. In the best interest of New Hartford, and for the integrity of the board, I request that Maria Moore resign, immediately.

Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it! All comments welcome.

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From → Youth Sports

38 Comments
  1. Lang Mussen permalink

    agree!

  2. Chris Valko permalink

    Absolutely agree! How did the BOF meeting go last night? I was unable to attend due to work, but did send all BOF members letters.

    • Mike Maloney permalink

      Looks like Antolini field money and Brodie Field House money are all set. Jim Fitzgerald made a point to get those 2 things broken out specifically.

  3. Krista Maloney permalink

    Our town needs a rule that any Board of Finance member that receives financial compensation from any organization that is included in the budget cannot vote on that budget. The opportunity for corruption is too great. We cannot allow personal gain to become the driving force behind political service in our town. It undermines respect for the entire Board, and the work that they do.

  4. Heather permalink

    I completely agree. Blatant conflict of interest should not be tolerated. How do we fix this?

    • NewHartfordHeldHostage permalink

      Heather, we need to keep pressure on all involved. We may also need to push the town to adopt formal ethics rules. I’m sure Sharon would be open to a guest post from you on the Beacon. You should email her if you have any ideas.

  5. chris coakley permalink

    Krista for president!!!!

  6. Neil permalink

    “Mrs. Moore did not remove herself from the conflict, but instead chose to accuse her fellow board members of having similar conflicts.”
    Hmmmm, why am I not surprised? What conflicts did she accuse the others of having? Not that it makes it right, of course.

    • Mike Maloney permalink

      She didn’t detail the conflicts, but said that everybody had them.

    • Mike Maloney permalink

      Jim and Reggie have already denied having any conflicts. I have no reason to doubt them. I hope the other members will also speak out.

  7. TheTruthWillGetOut permalink

    She accused the First Selectman of a conflict of interest because he has volunteered as a coach for youth sports. She somehow conflated volunteering with receiving financial benefit from an organization who’s funding she oversees. Perhaps it is time to organize a boycott of those businesses who advertise with Ms. Moore’s blog, thus relieving her of her ethical dilemma.

    • Neil permalink

      So, unsubstantiated, vague conflict accusations intended to deflect attention and avoid responding to her obvious and specific conflict of interest. Once again, why am I not surprised. This should be pursued.

  8. I know something about ethics. Construction companies fill out forms in multiplicate detailing any connection they might have with any person who works for any agency (including cities) with whom we might be trying to do business.

    I think The Beekley is fantastic. I don’t go there much, because I don’t have time. Soon I will. But I think that having a person on the BOF who has a say in it’s funding when that person has a financial interest in that funding ($$ coming in from advertising) is a clear conflict. That person should not serve on the BOF, or should at the very least recuse themselves on any votes involving that entity.

    • Chris Valko permalink

      I think that any money that NH+ gets from advertising should right off the bat be removed from the libraries budget….if the library has enough money for advertising then they should be able to be self funded

  9. Volunteer permalink

    NH Plus gets $50 a month for running an ad for a non-profit corporation. Do you really think someone should resign the unpaid position, for which she volunteered, because his or her local business provides a service for which her company – not her- receives $50 a month? Is $50 a month before overhead and taxes enough to sway your opinion about anything?
    Maria Moore has stated from the outset that she favors a regional solution to the practice field problem that would share costs with other towns. In the meantime as a BOF member, she has to weigh difficult budget priorities such as reducing teachers and school staff as well as school maintenance and playgrounds. In the absence of a real plan to move the practice to Antolini, cuts to the Antolini grounds improvements have to be considered.
    We football folks should focus on the real issues and not engage in personal attacks and don’t create an either/or zero-sum game with the Library or teachers or anything else. We can’t win that one, and neither will anyone else. I coach youth sports, have kids, enjoy football, have a local business and volunteer in many ways at more than one park. Football at BPS is a square peg in a round hole; lets not try to make the hole bigger with vitriol.

  10. stephaniegorman permalink

    Volunteer, Do you know much does hosting costs? It ranges from $5.95/month to $15.95/month if you decide you want to pay too much. So you state that her position is unpaid? If it’s her company, she benefits, no? It is a monetary relationship. That’s not a personal attack, it is a fact. There is a difference.

    • Volunteer permalink

      Maria Moore is not the problem. Get rid of her and you might end up with a bigger problem, someone more hostile to the program. The program needs a great location, let’s find it, it’s around here somewhere.

      • stephaniegorman permalink

        Sure. Let’s find it. That would make everyone happy. But for now, why don’t we agree to let kids practice without trying to shut them down? This issue has been pushed to the breaking point. It took years for people to start to fight back against the lies and attacks coming from NH+. If that stopped, and if the FoBPS would show an inch of patience, it would all work out. Nothing happens immediately, nor can it when you are dealing with trying to spend taxpayer money wisely.

        But this is beating a dead horse. All the parents have been talking to a brick wall. The issue here is conflict of interest and ethics.

      • Mike Maloney permalink

        I’d love to hear your suggestions on locations and funding. If everyone’s efforts went into a new location instead trying to stop the current location, we could put this issue to rest.

        In case you missed it, check out Wolverine Field at Brodie Park South. Playing fields and a way to pay for them.

        https://newhartfordbeacon.com/2012/04/07/wolverine-field-at-brodie-park-south/

      • Chris Valko permalink

        Let’s not forget that the Board of Selectmen has found a new home for NHYFC and that is at Antolini. A place we will gladly go when the field is expanded and the grass grown in as needed. The only problem arising from Antolini is that FoBPS is not willing to be patient and accepting of letting practice can continue for two short seasons until our new home is ready. And, by Maria Moore trying to cut the funding for the field expansion it clearly shows that this is more about football than where practice is held.

      • Mike Maloney permalink

        If FoBPS had put the same effort into raising money for the new field that they put into trying to stop football at Brodie, Antolini would already be finished.

      • Neil permalink

        I think the question is “Can we do better?” rather than “Would we do worse?” The person in question is a part owner (not just an editor) of a private business whose revenues partly come from the library. When the library’s funding comes before the BOF, the conflict exists. How that conflict is resolved is the key issue.

  11. New Hartford Held Hostage permalink

    “Less than a month after he was appointed a Board of Finance alternate, Democrat Paul Lindoerfer was found by the Easton Board of Ethics to have a potential conflict of interest because he was a part-time substitute teacher at Helen Keller Middle School. Because of the decision, Mr. Lindoerfer quit his teaching job in order to stay on the finance board.”

    http://www.acorn-online.com/joomla15/eastoncourier/news/localnews/115945–ethics-board-decision-teaching-is-conflict-for-finance-board-alternate.html

    This guy only earned $850 per year as a substitute.

  12. lmsheffield permalink

    Mr. Fitzgerald’s wife works as a Data Manager for New Hartford schools. Does that count as a conflict of interest? Should she quit her job? After all, he does get a direct benefit from her salary, which is affected by line items in the budget that he votes on.

    • Neil permalink

      “Does that count as a conflict of interest?” – Yes.
      “Should she quit her job?” – There are several ways to resolve a conflict of interest. That one is the most extreme and not necessarily the right one.

      • Anonymous permalink

        I’m just saying. This is a small town. I don’t think anyone on the Board of Finance has their own little agenda. They are all volunteers working for the good of the town. Let’s pick our battles.

  13. New Hartford Held Hostage permalink

    Most cities/towns have a code of ethics; here is an excerpt from Torrington’s:

    Any elected or appointed officer or any employee, and any member of any board, commission or agency of the City, who has a personal and/or financial interest, direct or indirect, in any contract, transaction or decision to which the City or any board, commission or agency of the City is a party shall disclose that interest to the Board of Councilmen or any other City board, commission or agency of which he or she is a member, which bodies shall record such disclosure upon the official record of their meetings. No person shall vote as a member of any City board, commission or agency on any question involving his or her said interest.

    Financial Interest. Any interest in which an individual derives or expects that he will derive economic and/or pecuniary gain or loss to himself, to any member of his immediate family or to any organization to which said individual is affiliated as an employee, owner, partner or member of a governing board or from which said individual will receive or expects to receive a gift.

    Seems pretty clear, if you have an interest you don’t vote. Is that so wrong?

    • stephaniegorman permalink

      No, that sounds like the way it’s supposed to work. I’m not saying Maria needs to step down, I think that’s going overboard. She should abstain from voting on anything associated with any of her paid advertisers.

      New Hartford doesn’t have a code of ethics? Really?

    • Neil permalink

      “Is that so wrong?” Not at all. It is so right. All types of organizations have conflict of interest rules, policies, etc.

  14. Anonymous permalink

    How about Mr. Witte? He is the Chairman of the Board of Finance and his wife is the town bookkeeper. Where are we going to draw the line? This should not be the focus of football.

    • stephaniegorman permalink

      The focus of football is having a place to play. So, yes, in an attempt to keep things fair so we can achieve that goal has made it a necessity to bring attention to this. This is a controversial subject right now, only because a select few have made it so. One of that select few has a website which hammers an anti-football agenda with a paid advertiser who she has voting power over funding.

      Football has been left no alternative by NH+ as well as FoBPS, but to fight for their rights as residents and taxpayers of the same town. One of those rights is to express displeasure in anyone serving the town, especially if that person has proven themselves to be less than trustworthy by their own actions. NH+ & FoBPS have not been fair. They have not been truthful. They have run the football program as well as kids through the mud. Maria has played an instrumental part in that. She was also against the Antolini expansion before she was for it … I mean against it … or is she for it now? Who’s asking? Does it matter? We know her recommendation. We also know her track record for being fair when it comes to the kids.

      Simply put, she should abstain from voting on anything that has to do with library funding. That obviously goes for anyone else with a conflict on any subject. Let’s bring fairness to town.

  15. Good discussion, people. We are lucky in the end to be able to vote for or against the budget in referrendum, so the BOF is mostly a body for putting together and recommending budget items. They don’t pass it, we do. Hopefully we’ll all be there to do that!

  16. Neil permalink

    “…especially if that person has proven themselves to be less than trustworthy…have not been truthful.” Well put, Stephanie.

    Did anyone else notice the whopper Maria told at the recent Rec meeting in the Senior Center? In her second time addressing the group (minute 49 in the NH+ video, minute 46 of the Beacon’s video) she falsely claimed that Brown’s Corner is an area “…not available to other townspeople, that are reserved for sports when sports is not using them.” That is wrong. Browns Corner is not restricted in that way. If there are no games or practices being held, anyone can walk around, use the picnic tables, walk in the woods surrounding the fields, etc., etc. I’ve done that and also checked with the Rec Commission about her statement. During games or practices, only the fields being used are restricted.

    That whopper was another one of her false statements intended to sway others and support her position. Having an opinion or position on an issue is one thing, speaking (and printing) false things to support it is another.

  17. Jim fitzgerald permalink

    Wow, this is getting to be fun…in response to “lmsheffield”, whoever he or she is, it is true, and always been true, my wife works for the Board of Education and has for many years. In fact, she reports to the Superintendent. If lmsheffield had his or her facts accurate, he/she would know that as a member of the Board of Finance, we do not have any say over budgetary line items, unless of course you are Maria Moore, the Board of Finance member who thinks she is responsible for line-by-line additions and deletions in the Board of Education budget. As a board of finance member, we can only work with the net budget number and not line items to the board of education operations budget. I am on the board of finance, not the board of education. The only budget the BOF has any line item say over is the Town Operation and capital budget. I think the bigger conflict is that I am a registered Republican and my wife is a Registered Democrat.

  18. Jim Fitzgerald permalink

    Let us focus on the kids. People have asked me and yes, I am fully in support of the New Hartford Youth Football getting into a permanent location and I believe that Brodie Park South is the best place to plant a sports complex. It all starts with a vision and the graphic depicting the complex for the wolverines is a fantastic idea. There is plenty of space for the complex and it can host baseball, soccer, and football. It has enough room for passive enjoyment, a nicely paved road to go around for back and front parking, a beautiful setting that can also be a vehicle for good revenue to the town. We can open it up to other local town leagues; get the girls a softball field as well as for adults so not to affect the current over capacity recreation fields already in use. Just imagine the fall games, the games under the lights, and the buzz of the kids having fun, playing, learning, and enjoying life in New Hartford. It all starts with a vision, a petition, signatures, a town meeting, approvals, funding, and a plan to execute a plan. Good luck, have fun, go for it.

  19. Anonymous permalink

    Jim, the statement was an example in response to “Paul Lindoerfer’s” example. It was by no means a criticism, accusation or suggestion that your wife quit her job or you resign from the Board of Finance.

  20. Heather permalink

    Bottom line – It is hard to believe that Maria is sincere when she says she thinks football should be at antolini yet recommends cuts that prevent football/cheer to move. Those opposing use of bps temporarily are creating a need to propose bps as a permanent field. They need to rethink their strategy. After the rec meeting I’m convinced that Maria is anti sports and family given the supposed changing demographics and her comments about browns corner. Really? She has a narrow point of view, sadly. Oh, and there should absolutely be a code of ethics policy.

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