Putnam Executive Fills Ethics Vacancies

Montgomery raises questions about appointee

A Putnam County legislative committee on Tuesday (May 16) approved the appointments of five members to the county Ethics Board, although Legislator Nancy Montgomery raised questions about a former political opponent.

The nominations, made by County Executive Kevin Byrne, now go to the full Legislature for consideration.

In a letter to the clerk of the Legislature, Byrne wrote that he learned after taking office in January that two members of the five-member board “had effectively resigned” and the terms of the other three had expired.

The candidates are Paul Eldridge, a Philipstown resident who is the county personnel director and whose term would end Dec. 31; Roderick Cassidy, a U.S. Army veteran, and Barbara Scuccimarra, a Garrison resident and former county legislator, whose terms would end in 2024; and John Sweeny Jr., a retired state judge, and Joseph DeMarzo, a retired deputy county commissioner of social services, whose terms would end in 2025.

Ethics board members serve three-year terms. Byrne said the term dates he provided were based on the last time the Legislature approved candidates for each of the five seats.

The board investigates violations of the county’s code of ethics, issues advisory opinions and collects annual financial disclosures from employees to monitor potential conflicts of interest. Its members, who are volunteers, cannot hold elective office in the county, be employed as a lobbyist or hold office in a political party. Only one member of the board may be an employee or appointed officer of the county.

Before the Rules Committee voted unanimously to advance the nominations, Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, asked its three members to go into executive session so she could provide “important information.”

When the committee returned, a discussion ensued in which it became clear that Montgomery, the only Democrat on the Legislature, had raised questions about Scuccimarra, a Republican whom she defeated in 2018 and 2021. 

Montgomery said that committee members should consider an “ethics accusation” concerning Scuccimarra’s involvement in a nonprofit, the Putnam Tourism Corp., created in 2012 by Libby Pataki, then the county’s tourism director, that paid Pataki a salary separate from what she earned from the Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau.

According to a story by The Journal News that prompted an investigation by the state attorney general, both nonprofits operated without the functioning boards required by state law, and the existence of the second nonprofit was a surprise to county officials.

Scuccimarra was identified in legal documents as the secretary and treasurer of the Putnam Tourism Corp. but denied to The Journal News that she was involved and said she didn’t recall signing the paperwork that created it. Pataki resigned as tourism director in 2016 and the organization was dissolved.

On Tuesday, two Rules Committee members said that the allegation that Scuccimarra had been involved in unethical behavior was unfounded; in the moments before the vote, Legislator Ginny Nacerino of Patterson said all five candidates had her full support and instructed her colleagues to “think of the motivation” behind Montgomery’s concerns.

Committee members also dismissed the contention that Scuccimarra had created the nonprofit and faulted Montgomery for not providing documentation.

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