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Schenectady councilman exonerated by ethics board in police officer’s complaint case

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City Councilman Cleared of Allegations by Schenectady Board⁢ of Ethics

SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady Board of⁣ Ethics has cleared City ⁢Councilman​ Damonni Farley of allegations of abuse of authority and misuse of municipal resources stemming from a complaint submitted by Schenectady Police Department Lt. Mike Dalton in September.

The ethics board‍ dismissed a complaint in November from Schenectady ⁤Republican Party Chair Tom⁢ Kennedy alleging ‌Farley had abused the power of ​his elected position in a pair of Sept.⁢ 1 phone calls he made to Dalton and a county dispatcher​ seeking the ‌return of⁤ a friend’s towed car. The decision was made because he was not a city‌ employee and was not eligible to submit the complaint.

But, Dalton‍ subsequently adopted Kennedy’s complaint ⁤and put⁣ it forward ‍for board consideration.

Board’s Investigation

The⁣ ethics board ​interviewed both Farley and Dalton‍ as part‌ of its investigation. It also reviewed the ‍audio of the Sept.⁢ 1​ call between Farley and Dalton, as well as calls Farley made⁢ to the ⁢city’s police traffic division on Aug. 25 and a county⁢ dispatcher on Sept. 1 regarding a car ‍that had been towed from 1053 Maryland Ave. that day.

On Tuesday, Farley took issue with Kennedy’s original complaint and noted that Dalton was⁢ going with the best facts that he had available to ​him at the time when the ⁢officer ⁣adopted Kennedy’s complaint.

Farley said Dalton⁢ had not been aware ⁢of his Aug. ⁤25 conversation⁢ with the ⁢police ‌traffic division at the⁤ time of their⁣ Sept. 1⁢ call after the vehicle had been towed.

Ethics Board Ruling

The ethics board notes in its ‌ruling that Dalton acted clearly within the bounds of ‍the law when towing the ⁢vehicle⁣ on Sept. 1.

“While personal vindication is satisfying, Mr. Kennedy’s willingness to‌ continually⁢ waste city resources⁣ raises​ concerns,” Farley said on ⁤Tuesday. ‌”Mr. Kennedy, who struggles ‌with meaningful ​policy discussions, resorts to bullying and playground politics. Fabricating ⁤allegations despite⁢ clear ⁣video⁤ evidence to the contrary, this ⁢highlights​ a lack ​of integrity and zero ‍credibility. The association with ⁣far-right bullying​ tactics hurt any reasonable Republican candidates last November and may continue to plague them. Mr. ⁤Kennedy isn’t doing his party any favors. His obsession appears peculiar; perhaps it’s time⁣ for him to seek help. ‍My focus remains on representing the people of Schenectady.”

Board Chair Fr. Dominic Isopo, pastor⁤ at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church, said ​the board had determined unanimously that Farley had not misused⁣ his city ‌position for personal gain.

Looking Ahead

Isopo said on Tuesday that the ethics​ board is exploring the possibility⁣ of opening up ethics complaints to city residents, similar​ to‌ municipalities such ⁣as Albany⁣ and Niskayuna.

Schenectady code states that only city employees or officers can file ethics complaints.

“It is‍ on the agenda and we’re reaching out to various entities — one in particular is the state — to see ​if ⁣there is another way, or to see what others have⁣ done in terms of best practices,” he said. “We continue to study‍ that. I think it’s important that the citizens of Schenectady have ‍an opportunity to‌ bring⁤ to the surface ​something they ‌feel is an ethical violation of a city employee.”

In ‌the board⁤ ruling, the ⁤panel notes that Dalton stated⁤ that he believed Farley⁢ identifying himself as a councilman should be construed as‍ an improper attempt ‍to influence and intimidate the officer.

“Such an absolutist position leaves ⁤no allowance for‌ the nuances of human speech and interaction and can lead, ‍as⁣ here, ​to misunderstanding,” the⁢ ruling⁤ says. “In context, nothing⁤ Farley said on this call ‍could reasonably be construed as an attempt to unduly influence ‌the officer by ⁢virtue of his elected office.”

The⁣ board ⁢further ‌ruled that ​the committee “does not ⁤believe it to be an ethical violation for a citizen to challenge⁢ government action they believe to be unjust, unfair or improper.”

In August, the ethics board dismissed a complaint from⁤ former Councilman John Polimeni that charged ‌that Farley violated ‍conflicts of interest rules pertaining to his contracts with the Schenectady City⁢ School District and unpaid personal income taxes.

In December, Councilman Carl Williams filed ⁢an ethics complaint against Polimeni, whose term⁣ ended at the end of year, charging that Polimeni has‌ not resided in Schenectady since purchasing a ‌home‌ in Rotterdam last spring. Isopo said the ethics board would take up the complaint at ‌its next meeting later this month.

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Juniper Li
Juniper Li
Juniper Li, with her roots in documentary filmmaking, brings a unique narrative style to local news reporting. A graduate of NYU’s Journalism program, Ava has a keen eye for stories that capture the essence of community life. Her reporting often highlights local achievements and challenges, drawing on her experience in visual storytelling.
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