Hempstead councilwoman plans to sue town over ethics bill

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HEMPSTEAD -

At least one member of the Hempstead Town Council says she plans to sue over an ethics reform plan.

"There is no question that this is illegal on its face, and I plan to challenge it in court," says Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, a Republican from Wantagh.

The Republican-dominated town board narrowly passed the ethics package in a 4-3 vote earlier this week, and at issue is a provision that blocks council members from earning more than $125,000 in outside income a year. 

King Sweeney, an affluent aviation attorney, describes the measure as a "political hit job."

Supervisor Anthony Santino, also a Republican, says the outside income cap is not aimed at any one particular lawmaker. 

He is the one who first introduced the legislation, and on Tuesday, he also proposed an amendment that would allow lawmakers to trigger an alternative to the cap by instead enacting a "full disclosure" option.

King Sweeney says the three town board members who opposed Santino's plan were not presented with the amendment until the meeting was already underway. 

"Those who were supporting Supervisor Santino received a copy," King Sweeney says. "What this really is is a power grab by the supervisor. It's regrettable, and it's illegal."

She has also filed a freedom of information request in a bid to unveil how the amendment first came to be.

Santino responded with a statement praising openness and transparency in government.

"It is astonishing that an elected official would go to court to keep the sources of his or her outside income a secret," he said.
King Sweeney and Santino have been trading jabs for months. 

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