Editorial: Another look, maybe?

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton.

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton.

It seems the city’s new ethics board fumbled its first case. We’d like to see them take another look at Mayor Gallo’s hiring George Redder as counsel for the Kingston Local Development Corporation.

The matter was brought to the board’s attention by Alderman Brad Will — not one of the mayor’s favorite lawmakers, for sure — who pointed out that until Gallo gave Redder the gig, Gallo was listed as “of counsel” on Redder’s letterhead and his name was on the sign of Redder’s office. As we reported last week, “Will argued that Redder’s employment by the KLDC could run afoul of an ethics law passed in 2013 which forbids the awarding of contracts to companies and individuals who have recently been in business relationships with senior city officials.”

You hang around lawyers enough, you learn a few things. One of them being that to lawyers, words mean things — very specific, exact and really important things. In fact, the entirety of the law turns on words and their meanings; lawyers, juries and judges decide the fates of litigants and defendants every day based on words in laws. People get sentenced to death, or get away with murder, based on words in laws.


So “of counsel” of course means something, and it means more than renting a desk in an office. (That in and of itself is a business relationship, come to think of it.) As we reported this week, “While the definition of ‘of counsel’ varies from state to state, a 1996 opinion by the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Professional and Judicial Ethics describes it as ‘the existence of a close, regular and personal relationship between the attorney and the firm.’” Not a partnership, to be sure, but more than just some guy renting a desk.

Look, we know the members of the ethics board aren’t professional ethicists (other than the New York Times guy, who is?), but it seems in this case they failed to even type in the words “of counsel” into a search engine to see what might pop up. The documents the city provided as a result of the FOIL request gave exactly zero insight or explanation as to how the board came to its decision; we know from a board member that they basically looked at Will’s letter and, as board chairwoman (and fervent defender of the mayor on social media) Jean Jacobs is quoted as saying, decided Will’s concerns were “baseless.” In essence, they took the mayor’s word for it.

Weak effort, ethics board — your job is to scrutinize and make sure the law is upheld, not just take powerful people’s word for it that they’re on the up and up.

But even if Redder’s hiring was proper, in giving a person whom he’s friends with a job he broke a promise he made repeatedly during his 2011 campaign — that he’d put an end to the cronyism and hooking-up-your-buddies-with-city-gigs thing which has been a lamentable hallmark of public affairs in this city.

Once upon a time, someone said to me, “The appearance of a conflict of interest is the same thing as a conflict of interest.” In this case, looks ain’t deceiving.

There are 4 comments

  1. charles sumner

    The fact that there are professional ethicists has no real bearing on our ability to make ethical judgments… it does require common sense.. that seems to be lacking. Since Ms Jacobs et al are representing the citizens of Kingston, Ms Jacobs and that board ought to respond in writing to the public… unless your view is wrong and there actually are citizens (besides those on the board) that think the charges are actually baseless. Can you conduct a little poll?

  2. Rand Rosenbaum

    It must be terribly difficult driving forward while constantly looking over one’s shoulder…completely oblivious that there’s more than just a sink hole on the road ahead.

    Kingston is witnessing a legacy of mistruths and compounded mistakes made by its highest of elected officials (and his very own appointees) entrusted to legislate and serve its general public. A legacy that these same persons will forever wear and can never erase from a letterhead or moral conscience.

  3. Rainier Parade

    I’m glad to see a small newspaper take its responsibility to the public seriously — unlike our mayor, who is as cynical as they come. And Barton is absolutely right about everything he says in this article, except for one thing: the ethics board didn’t do a “weak” job on this, it did exactly the job Gallo wanted it to do, which is to provide cover for him. It’s why he appointed people close to him to serve on it. The voters need to wake up to the fact that reelecting Gallo will mean four more years of these shenanigans. Keep it up, Kingston Times. People need to hear this stuff.

Comments are closed.