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


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.

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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