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HomeGovernmentCity of RyeDems & GOP Jointly Call For Mayor's Gang of Four to Resign

Dems & GOP Jointly Call For Mayor’s Gang of Four to Resign

(PHOTO: The "Gang of Four" Councilwoman Carolina Johnson, Mayor Josh Cohn, Councilwoman Julie Souza and Councilman Ben Stacks at the Council meeting on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.)
(PHOTO: The “Gang of Four” Councilwoman Carolina Johnson, Mayor Josh Cohn, Councilwoman Julie Souza and Councilman Ben Stacks at the Council meeting on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.)

In a highly unusual move, the local Democratic and GOP have issued a joint statement calling on the “Gang of Four” – Rye Mayor Josh Cohn and his three Council allies – to either drop their lawsuit against the City of Rye Board of Ethics or resign. Filed Tuesday, just before Wednesday night’s Council meeting, the suit comes in the wake of the Board of Ethics’ February 13th Confidential Advisory Opinion regarding the Council’s actions surrounding tree legislation.

“This is insane,” said local Rye City Republican Committee Vice Chair Katie Manger. “I don’t think these are bad people. I just think they’re in a vacuum. And they’re not seeing how bad is this.”

“People can get passionate about [issues] and people can argue but at the end of the day, we all know that the residents of Rye are the most important thing,” said local Rye City Democratic Committee Chair Danielle Tagger-Epstein. “And we’re all doing it because we care and love the City.”

A special meeting of the City Council has been called for 4:00pm Friday afternoon to “authorize the expenditure of funds and retention of Counsel(s) related to In the Matter of an Application of Josh Cohn et al v. City of Rye Board of Ethics.” With the City effectively suing itself, it needs to pay and provide counsel to the Board of Ethics members so they can defend themselves against the Mayor’s “Gang of Four”. The Gang of Four is currently fronting their own legal costs but is asking for reimbursement in the lawsuit along with any other damages the Court might find.

Read the joint statement:

June 16, 2023

The Rye City Democratic and Republican Committees, jointly and emphatically condemn the actions of Mayor Josh Cohn and Councilpersons Carolina Johnson, Ben Stacks, and Julie Souza in their decision to file a lawsuit against the City of Rye’s Board of Ethics (“BOE”). We stand united in calling upon the four Councilpersons to withdraw their lawsuit or resign their positions and pursue their legal efforts as unconflicted private citizens.

Cohn, Johnson, Stacks, and Souza are suing the BOE to force them to withdraw ethics advice that was provided not to them, but to Councilpersons Lori Fontanes, Bill Henderson, and Josh Nathan. The three Councilpersons requested the advice in light of the Emergency Special Meeting of the Rye City Council called by Johnson, Stacks, and Souza for the purpose of passing a tree moratorium law. Concerned that such meeting could present the appearance of impropriety—given that it was called to prevent trees from being cut down on a lot abutting the Mayor’s property—Councilpersons Fontanes, Henderson, and Nathan asked the BOE for personal ethics advice. As part of such advice the BOE expressed its view that the actions in calling for and holding an emergency meeting under these circumstances violated Section 15-10(B) of the Rye City Code of Ethics.

This lawsuit has nothing to do with trees. It is about the proper process of governing.
At a time when our neighboring communities face tough economic challenges in housing and providing for an influx of new arrivals, and Rye families are grappling with inflation, flooding and over- development, the Mayor of the City of Rye and his council allies show a complete lack of self-awareness. Their actions place our city in the farcical position of suing itself and potentially incurring significant legal fees representing both sides. Every dollar spent on this needless lawsuit detracts from funds that could be used to support and care for community needs.

Make no mistake: This frivolous, self-serving lawsuit will impose a needless financial burden on Rye taxpayers.

The BOE consists of five members: Rye’s City Manager, Greg Usry, City Attorney Kristen Wilson, BOE Chairperson and past City Councilperson Beth Griffin Mathews, past Mayor Ted Dunn, and highly respected attorney Ted Stein.

The two City professionals along with members of their staff will now be forced to spend months gathering information and preparing depositions. City productivity and morale, at a time when they are working to manage a plethora of capital projects, will plummet.
The three BOE volunteers, all highly respected and long-term residents of our community, will have to divert attention from their personal lives and endure the added stress of responding to a lawsuit. This sends a powerful and negative message to the very talented and committed members of our community we want to attract to our city volunteer committees– “don’t bother”.

Finally, how will the four current Council members, who were elected to represent the voters, effectively manage their lawsuit against the city they lead? The range of conflicts they face is mind boggling. One thing is certain, the interests of Rye voters will come last.
The filing of the Article 78 lawsuit against the BOE by Mayor Cohn and Councilpersons Johnson, Stacks and Souza is an attack against who we are as Rye neighbors, friends and residents—individuals who love this city and express their appreciation through voluntary service. Therefore, the Rye City Democratic and Republican parties stand together and call upon the four Councilpersons to withdraw their lawsuit or resign their positions to pursue this lawsuit as unconflicted citizens.


  1. It’s heartening to see that there is bipartisan outrage in response to the Mayor’s absurd litigation. But the call to the Mayor and his allies should simply be to resign, regardless of whether or not they drop the litigation. How can this group be trusted to act in good faith on behalf of the people when they’ve demonstrated so clearly that their primary, almost exclusive, focus is on their own narrow interests? A Mayor who sues his own constituents can not continue as the civic leader of the constituents he sues.


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