Ethics chairman resigns to work for town Dems

The chairman of Southold Town’s board of ethics has resigned in order to play an active role in town Democratic politics.
Robert Meguin, an attorney based in Southold, had served on the ethics board for four years and been its chairman for two. Recently chosen as a member of the town’s Democratic Committee, he had to quit the ethics board because the town’s ethics code prohibits him from serving on both bodies.

In his resignation letter, Mr. Meguin chastised the town for an ethics code that was “poorly drafted and requires substantial revision in several areas, particularly dual employment, gifts and the disclosure of other potential conflicts of interest.”
Supervisor Scott Russell said at the Nov. 4 Town Board work session that he wished Mr. Meguin had asked him while he was on the ethics board to re-examine many of the town’s ethics policies.

“Bring changes to the [town] board and we’ll hash it out,” he said at the work session, adding that he agreed with many of Mr. Meguin’s concerns.

“It’s a shame we have to wait for an exit letter to hear these things,” agreed Councilman Chris Talbot.

At least one of Mr. Meguin’s concerns has already been addressed by the Town Board. He cited the hiring of off-duty police officers as security guards for private companies as a prime example of the ethical conflict of dual employment. This past summer, the Town Board prohibited police officers from working as private security guards within the town’s boundaries.
“There are a lot of instances of problems of dual employment,” said Mr. Meguin. “You need some parameters. The ethics board should provide an advisory opinion. That’s the key to the whole process.”

Mr. Meguin formerly served on the town’s Democratic Committee and ran for a town justice seat as a Democrat in the mid-1990s.

“I wasn’t active at all. I was trying to practice law,” he said of his previous committee membership. “But I don’t like what’s going on nationally, locally or statewide. I can’t complain unless I’m part of the process.”

This fall, Mr. Meguin learned that 19 out of 38 seats on the Democratic committee were vacant and realized that he needed to step in and do what he could to help reinvigorate the party.

New Democratic committee chairman Art Tillman, who was elected Oct. 5, said Monday that 35 seats are now filled.
“We had a campaign headquarters in Southold during the election and a lot of people just ambled in,” said Mr. Tillman. “Many Democrats were concerned about the Tea Party and became active. We gave them an opportunity by working for Tim Bishop and other campaigns.”

Mr. Tillman said that many people who have joined the party have recently moved to the North Fork.

“They have varied backgrounds, are well educated and have lived in diverse places. I see these people as a real resource for our party and our town,” he said. “Most people who are natives here made up their minds about their political affiliations a long time ago.”

Mr. Tillman said he is very excited that Mr. Meguin will be returning to the committee.

“He has a wealth of talent and expertise and he knows the ins and outs of the political system,” he said.

The Town Board is now soliciting resumes from candidates to fill Mr. Meguin’s seat on the ethics board member. Resumes must be received by Nov. 29 and should be addressed to Town Clerk Elizabeth Neville, Southold Town Hall, P.O. Box 1179, Southold, NY 11971.

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