The Town of New Castle's Board of Ethics has determined that Supervisor Susan Carpenter did not violate the town's ethics code in her handling of Conifer Realty's affordable housing proposal.
In an Aug. 21 letter, board Chairperson Ellen Hexter replied to a request from Carpenter to review the matter, which was raised because Conifer attorney Alfred DelBello was once a board member of the supervisor's employer, Westchester Land Trust. Although DelBello is still a donor to the land trust, Hexter did not feel that the donation amount presented a problem.
"As Mr. DelBello no longer has a formal position on the Board of Directors of the Land Trust and his charitable donations to that organization do not appear to be unusually large as compared to other donors or to indicate an undue influence in the organization, Mr. DelBello’s involvement with the Land Trust does not appear to rise to the level that would require your recusal from deliberation on the Conifer Realty special use permit application." Hexter wrote. "Moreover, we do not find any violation of the New Castle Town Code of Ethics in your participation of the deliberations on Conifer Realty’s Special use permit application."
Carpenter, who was a planning board member before becoming supervisor, wrote that she recused herself from applications in which Westchester Land Trust board members were involved, including DelBello. A 17-year-old employee of the land trust, Carpenter reports to its executive director, who in turn reports to the board.
Critics in the New Castle NOW comments section first raised the potential for a conflict of interest during the summer, after the town board approved a zoning text change for the 28-unit apartment building's site and passed a Conditioned Negative Declaration for it plan's environmental impact.
Carpenter, who took office in January 2012, has been directly involved in the review of the proposal since it was formally submitted to the town about a month later. The town board is expected to vote tonight on whether to grant the special permit.