In fending off an ethics complaint, Republican Deputy Mayor Louis Santoro will move to avail himself of a taxpayer-funded attorney made possible by a proposed amendment to village law.
Specifically, the proposed law would amend village code to include volunteers of boards or commissions, or elected officials that wish to defend themselves from administrative actions brought against them while carrying out their official duties using taxpayer money.
This would mark the second time in the last year that Santoro would have hired his own attorney and asked the village to reimburse him for costs.
The proposal has yet to be discussed via public meeting, but according to Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, the issue will be mulled by the village board throughout the course of the next several months.
The complaint which spurred the amendment proposal, was filed by village resident Sue McCrory and alleges Santoro broke Open Meetings Law law by failing to properly recuse himself during public discussions earlier this year regarding the village’s reimbursement of his personal attorney fees.
In 2016 Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, sued the village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees, including Santoro, in an attempt to stymie two referenda proposed by board Democrats that altered various powers and privileges of the mayor, including appointments to land use boards.
However, Santoro did not vote in favor of moving forward with the referenda.
During the litigation, which lasted little more than one month before being thrown out by a Westchester County judge, Santoro hired his own personal defense attorney, opting not to utilize representation from an attorney retained by the rest of the Democratic members of the Board of Trustees. According to Trustee Keith Waitt, a Democrat, to overturn the decision made by the Board of Trustees, Santoro, a member of the body, was required to be included in the lawsuit.
The Board of Trustees, at its Feb. 13 meeting, voted to unanimously to approve the village’s reimbursement of Santoro’s personal attorney fees in that matter.
While Santoro recused himself from voting that night, the complaint alleges that the deputy mayor—who was conducting the night’s public meeting in Rosenblum’s absence—violated ethics laws by still participating in the discussion and failing to leave the dais.
According to Maria DeRose, secretary of the Ethics Board, the body has yet to discuss the matter. Further, DeRose said she is unsure of what types of sanctions Santoro could be charged with, if any.
Ethics Board guidelines dictate the body may issue an advisory opinion that can be accepted or denied by the Board of Trustees.
The penalties for acting in violation of the village’s ethical guidelines can vary depending on the nature of the offense and recommendations put forward by the Ethics Board.
Santoro, who was first elected to the village board in 2009, will not seek re-election this year.
Santoro and McCrory could not be reached for comment as of press time.