The commission which oversees the Pike Plan canopy in Uptown Kingston has issued a formal ethics complaint against Alderman Brad Will (D-Ward 3), claiming that his votes regarding the controversial canopy constitute a conflict of interest.
But, despite claims by Pike Plan officials that they filed the complaint and by Mayor Shayne Gallo that an attorney has been retained to examine it, the head of Kingston’s Ethics Board said that she was unaware of the issue.
The Pike Plan, a system of covered sidewalks along Wall and North Front streets has been mired in controversy since a major renovation project in 2011. Since work wrapped up on the overhaul, property owners have complained about poor design and workmanship that, they say, has caused flooding and other damage to their buildings. Last month, the council approved Mayor Shayne Gallo’s request to hire Latham-based consulting firm C.T. Male to carry out a “forensic examination” of deficiencies in the plan. The study could be a precursor to a lawsuit against contractors involved in the restoration effort.
Back in 2009, Will was one of two architects subcontracted by the engineering firm RBA to produce preliminary design documents for renovation project. Since his election to the Common Council in 2013, Will has cast a number of votes related to the Pike Plan. Last month Will voted against allocating $42,000 for the C.T. Male study when the issue came before the council’s Finance Committee. When it came before the full council, Will abstained from the vote, declining to explain why.
John Perry, chairman of the Pike Plan Commission, said the board had drafted a formal complaint to the city’s ethics board regarding Will’s votes and approved a letter stating so at its April 1 meeting. Perry said Will’s prior involvement with the restoration project posed a clear conflict of interest when it came to voting on matters, like the C.T. Male study, that could be preliminary to a lawsuit.
“We wanted to put forth a letter just to put him on notice that he should abstain from future votes,” said Perry. “Just a slap on the hand, no big deal.”
Will said he could not respond to the conflict-of-interest allegation because he had not seen the letter or been informed of the complaint. Will did reiterate his belief that further investigation and litigation around the Pike Plan would be fruitless since the city had already carried out at least two previous studies. Will added that the city had also given up much of its leverage in 2012 when officials signed off on a statement certifying that the restoration project was complete and all deficiencies had been remedied to their satisfaction. “I believe the whole venture is just a waste of taxpayer money,” said Will.
Mayor Shayne Gallo said that he was aware of the complaint, but he declined to provide a copy of the letter. In a statement sent through staff, Gallo explained that the Ethics Board had retained an attorney to resolve the complaint and, on the advice of corporation counsel, he was unable to forward the letter. Gallo, however said, that he believed Will had a clear conflict of interest regarding the Pike Plan.
“It’s disappointing that Mr. Will can’t see the obvious here,” said Gallo.
But Jean Jacobs, who heads the Ethics Board, said that she was unaware of any ethics complaint regarding Will. Jacobs said that she had not received the letter, or been contacted by fellow board members regarding the issue.
“I have no letter and I have not been contacted,” said Jacobs. “I would have hoped that they had filed it by now if it’s already out there, public in the media.”