By ASHLEY HELMS
Clark Neuringer, a Democrat running for mayor in the Village of Mamaroneck, has been very active on local municipal land use boards for the last 23 years and has made this a platform of his political campaign, but he finds himself in some hot water after he was ruled in violation of two of the village’s regulations by the Board of Ethics last year.
An unnamed citizen notified Trustee Louis Santoro, a Republican, that Neuringer may have violated the village code of ethics after his appearance in front of the Planning Board on Feb. 8, 2012. Santoro examined the allegations and wrote a letter to the Board of Ethics suggesting it investigate the matter.
According to documents obtained by The Mamaroneck Review, at the Feb. 8, 2012, Planning Board meeting, Neuringer, a licensed architect, appeared before the board representing a client for a proposed project in the village. Later in the meeting, he also represented a second client on a different subject. Neuringer served as chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals until November 2011 and was, at the time of his Feb. 8 appearances before the Planning Board, a member of the Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission.
The Village of Mamaroneck Code of Ethics states that a person must not appear in front of any village board, agency or commission as part of their employment within two years of leaving a municipal board. They are also barred from conducting any official village business with any village officer where special advantages due to prior relationships may be realized.
Before the Board of Ethics on May 2, 2012, Neuringer responded to the allegations and board questioning. The Board of Ethics, chaired by Charles Mitchell, decided unanimously that Neuringer had violated the two code regulations in question, according to the board’s report.
The Board of Ethics decided Neuringer had been given specific direction that he was prohibited from appearing before boards and commissions of the village, representing paid clients, until two years have elapsed from his last term of service. Although there was no penalty attached to the board’s findings, subsequent violations could make Neuringer liable for a penalty of up to $1,500.
In his defense, Neuringer said the language of the law doesn’t outright prohibit someone from appearing before a land use board within a two-year window unless there is a conflict of interest.
“It doesn’t say you can’t appear; it says you can’t if there is an undue influence,” he said.
The mayoral candidate said the Board of Ethics clarified the laws to him rather than handing down punitive actions or fines, but he was left with no recourse once the board’s decision was made. As an example, he said that, if the building inspector deems a project non-compliant with the zoning code, an applicant can appeal it, but Neuringer doesn’t have that option.
“The Ethics Board made the decision, but where could I go to appeal it,” he said. “It’s sort of a catch-22 situation.”
Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican incumbent who is being challenged by Neuringer, said the Board of Ethics findings demonstrate Neuringer’s attitude toward rules and regulations, as well as a possible character trait.
“I was at that meeting; he was told by members of the audience that he may be in violation. Then he got up and did it again,” Rosenblum said.
Though Neuringer acknowledged that a Planning Board audience member made a comment that the candidate shouldn’t be allowed to appear because he “knows too much,” he said those are not the people who are in any position to judge or carry out the ethics codes.
“I encourage everyone to just read the language [of the laws],” Neuringer said. “My position is that I fully, fully, was not in violation.”