Editorial: Transparency goes on holiday in North Hempstead

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Editorial: Transparency goes on holiday in North Hempstead

Judi Bosworth has often boasted, with much justification, that as North Hempstead town supervisor she seems to be everywhere, attending one event after another talking about the town.

Which seems so odd given Bosworth’s unwillingness to answer questions about the financial statements Robert Troiano filed while serving first as director of operations for the town and then as a senior policy adviser.

Troiano, who joined the town in 2014 after 10 years as a North Hempstead town councilman and county legislator, amassed $81,533 in federal income tax liens between 2010 and 2014 as well as a $749,264 lien against a house he owns that was facing foreclosure.

But rather than openness and transparency — words the town supervisor has often used to characterize her administration — the town initially declined to say whether Troiano had disclosed his debts on town financial disclosure forms.

And, after Blank Slate Media reported that a 2014 financial disclosure form obtained under the Freedom of Information Law showed Troiano had not disclosed his debts that year, the town issued a statement that makes the small print in a credit card application look straightforward.

“Robert Troiano listed a federal tax lien on his 2016 financial disclosure form which was filed May 2017 and reviewed by the Independent Board of Ethics,” town spokeswoman Carole Trottere said in a two-paragraph statement. “It was reported in Newsday that there may have been other tax liens. According to the Town Attorney, these were not listed on earlier financial disclosure forms.”

In other words, Troiano had failed to disclose his debts in earlier financial disclosure forms. In journalism, this is known as burying the lead.

Trottere concluded by saying “We have strengthened the Town code of ethics and added an anti-nepotism law. The issues raised regarding Troiano’s undisclosed tax liens suggest this process needs to be tightened further and we are doing that, including now requiring that senior appointees submit financial disclosures before starting their employment with the Town.”

Does that mean senior appointees were not required to submit financial disclosures before starting their employment? And just who are these “senior appointees?”

We’ve seen this movie before. In fact, just two years ago.

Trottere’s mention of town efforts to strengthen the town code refer to changes made in 2016 after former town Democratic Party Chairman Gerard Terry was found to have $1.4 million in tax debts while holding two posts with the town and ex-employee Helen McCann was arrested for allegedly stealing $98,000 from the Solid Waste Management Authority.

“It’s not business as usual here in the town,” Bosworth said at the time.

Two months earlier, town officials announced they would start enforcing a requirement in the ethics code that town political committee leaders file financial disclosure forms. The requirement had been made 25 years before. And never enforced.

Terry never made any disclosure filings as a contractor or as chairman of the North Hempstead Democratic Committee.

He was later charged with one count each of tax evasion and obstructing the Internal Revenue Service and later pleaded guilty to tax evasion. He also pleaded guilty in Nassau County Criminal Court to failing to file a 2010 state tax return for personal income and to not paying more than $3,000 in state taxes.

Will Troiano face any penalties for not disclosing his debts on town financial disclosure forms?

Town ethics code violations are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000. 

But based on what Trottere said in her news release it is unclear whether Troiano is covered under the ethics code. And neither Bosworth, Trottere or any town board member is willing to discuss the question.

Nor are they saying whether the town informed Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s administration about the undisclosed tax liens when Troiano was named the acting head of parking and traffic violations for the county.

Curran and her administration appeared to be unaware of Troiano’s tax liens at the time of his appointment.

But somehow Republicans in the county Legislature, where Troiano served before joining the town, knew.

“Troiano would have been questioned about his financials by the Republicans” during a  confirmation hearing if he had not resigned, said Frank Moroney, a spokesman for Nassau Republicans.

“The sheer volume created doubts in people’s minds,” Moroney told Newsday.

Instead of answering the Republicans’ questions, Troiano withdrew his nomination for a job that would have paid him $155,000 a year.

He then took a job paying $140,000 a year at the county Board of Elections.

We hope this is not the only penalty Troiano faces.

Bosworth and the board also ought to be straight with the public and disclose what they knew about Troiano’s debts and when they knew it, and what they intend to do about it.

They should explain why the public should believe they will not be back in another two years with another promise to clean up the town’s ethics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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