The Islip Town Board plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday on a series of changes to the town’s ethics board including the elimination of a required annual public hearing.
The proposal would make optional, rather than mandatory, the requirement that the board give notice of public hearings by placing quarter-page advertisements on two separate occasions.
Additionally, the proposal would drop a requirement that the board provide ethics training and education to town employees. And it would formally condense the town’s financial disclosure forms and drop the requirement that the forms be sent by certified mail.
Ethics board chairman Nicholas V. Campasano said the proposed changes were prompted, in part, by a lack of attendance at previous meetings and cost considerations. The ethics board recommended the changes and the town board has the option of implementing the recommendations.
“We have never had one person appear,” Campasano said of the annual March public hearings. “It was just really an expense that was not fruitful.”
He said the changes would allow the board to hold public hearings when prompted by community concerns, rather than a pro-forma hearing without public participation.
“We will hold them at the board’s discretion,” he said. “At this point, I doubt we’ll have one in March. If we were to have a hearing, we would certainly advertise it in some manner.”
Campasano, who was appointed to the volunteer board in 1992, said the recommendation on employee training was prompted by the success of the program. Since holding its first ethics training for Islip employees about three years ago, he said, many employees have proactively sought the ethics board’s opinions, which he called “far more preferable.”
“People are thinking and making the inquiry before they act,” he said. “So far we haven’t seen any erosion of that.”
He added, “Everybody is trying to tighten our belt in this economy.” Asked whether town officials, who recently raised property taxes 28 percent as a way to close a $26 million budget shortfall, influenced the ethics board, he said no.
“Nobody came to us and said don’t hold this because it’s too expensive,” he said.