An article in today’s Newsday about the connections of a Huntington Town Councilman to a commercial interest got us riled about some things in Long Beach. http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/huntington-councilman-mark-cuthbertson-didn-t-disclose-ties-to-gary-melius-1.9463858
Let’s get to it.
Facts as far as we know them:
The Long Beach Democratic Committee is behind the existing City Council (vetted, picked, supported).
The LBDC recommended and/or supported Jack Schnirman.
The LBDC vetted, recommended, supported all ZBA members, except one holdover from the Coalition administration.
Mike Zapson is the head of the LBDC. From his firm’s website:
“[Mike] is Chairman of the Long Beach Democratic Committee, a member of the Executive Board of the Nassau County Democratic Committee, and sits on the Committee which determines who Democratic Judicial Candidates will be.”
Eileen Goggin, current City Council member, originally appointed (not elected) upon Mr. Fagen’s removal/withdrawal from the City Council. Shortly prior to that she was appointed to a vacancy on the Zoning Board. Vetted, recommended and/or supported by the LBDC.
Eileen Goggin is running for Nassau County District Court Judge. Mr. Zapson sits on Judicial Candidates Committee.
We hear rumor for long time now that Scott Mandel, City Council President, seeks judgeship.
There is nothing overtly wrong with anything described above. We understand the revolving door in politics between the public and private sector – not that we like it. We understand without political connections, one might never get elected to office, including a judicial office.
Here is where we are troubled, though.
Mr. Zapson’s law firm, Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron (“DHC”), often represents real estate interests before the Zoning Board of Appeals. For instance, the real estate investor recently denied a permit for subdividing a W. Market Street lot.
DHC also has clients that come before the Zoning Board – for instance i-Star Financial, owner of the Superblock. Although i-Star was represented by a different law firm at the Zoning Board.
Given Mr. Zapson’s connections, appearances are created that need to be avoided or subject to bright lights. That W. Market Street did not get approved is no proof to us that the system works fine. The stakes were very different there in comparison to something of the i-Star magnitude. In any event, a conspiracy adherent could make a number of arguments about its outcome.
Regardless, Long Beach’s residents need a fair shake on every Zoning Board matter and all other important matters and contracts presented for approval to the Council.
Surely, DHC cannot be barred from representing people doing business with the City, although Mr. Zapson could save us the concern by not doing business where he lives. But what the City can do is ensure that matters involving parties with relationships of this sort have extra disclosure and vetting time for the public.
As a candidate for higher office commented at an event last week, connections need to be disclosed and corners need to be square. We agree.