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HomeGovernmentCity of RyeLETTER: Former Councilmember Shocked & Appalled by Mayor's Lawsuit

LETTER: Former Councilmember Shocked & Appalled by Mayor’s Lawsuit

In a letter to MyRye.com, former Rye Councilman Gerry Seitz says he is shocked and appalled by the lawsuit brought by Mayor Josh Cohn and his Gang of Four (Cohn and Councilmembers Carolina Johnson, Julie Souza and Ben Stacks) against the City of Rye Board of Ethics.

(PHOTO: Former Councilmember Gerry Seitz addressing the Rye City Council on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.)
(PHOTO: Former Councilmember Gerry Seitz addressing the Rye City Council on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.)

The letter from Seitz:

Re: Gang of Four (Mayor Cohn and Board Members, Johnson, Souza and Stacks)
Lawsuit Against Rye

To Sue and me, Rye is ideal. A caring community and wonderful culture.

(PHOTO: Former Councilmember Gerry Seitz addressing the Rye City Council on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.)
(PHOTO: Former Councilmember Gerry Seitz addressing the Rye City Council on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.)

We’ve been involved with Rye over 50 years, serving on local boards. All our married children live in Rye. One granddaughter tells us she, too, will live in Rye. If her husband does not agree, she’ll marry someone else. Cupid, take note!

[I am] Shocked and appalled by the Gang of Four lawsuit. Miffed because the Board of Ethics (“BOC”), issued – and refused to withdraw – a non-legally binding advisory opinion which said the “extraordinary rush to call the meeting” (to deal with a proposed moratorium on clearcutting) “gives a ‘reasonable basis for the impression’ that [the Gang of Four] were influenced to take such action because of the proximity to the Mayor’s property”. Accordingly, breach of ethics.

Cohn had learned of prospective clear cutting in his neighborhood and wanted to stop it.
The complaint asked for the City, from TAXPAYER MONEY, to pay the legal fees for the Gang.

Doubling down. On Friday, 4-3, the Gang of Four, [in a] CLEAR CONFLICT OF INTEREST, directed the City to pay up to $45,000 from TAXPAYER MONEY to pay their legal costs. Question whether Rye can make these payments if the enabling vote was solely that of the Gang of Four.

Desired characterization of a candidate for public office:

  1. Knowledge of, interest in and care for the community and its values;
  2. Recognition he or she serves the community not one’s self;
  3. Judgment, common sense;
  4. Fairness;

The Gang of Four fails on all counts.

1. and 2. This lawsuit, because the Board of Ethics disagreed with them, confirms the Gang of Four have put their own interests first.

3. Judgment, common sense – Claim this is hurting their reputation and causing harm in the workplace. Instead of brushing off any inquiry, saying, “Big whoop! Purely political!” they initiated a process (1) they no longer control, (2) gets the issue before many more people and (3) they now face a possible legal determination that the Board’s non-legally legally binding opinion was correct! How many people want to hire someone who sued his last employer? Absolute trifecta! In addition, the idea this can be resolved for $90,000 (five blocks of new roads!) seems most unlikely unless the parties settle now.

4. Fairness – The Friday resolution, invoking improperly, I believe, the doctrine of necessity, the Gang of Four again, in a CLEAR CONFLICT OF INTEREST, also took charge of the defense which the BOE will presumably mount and limited their legal fees to a max of $45,000.

The BOE should, in light of the inherent unfairness of this decision controlling the BOE’s defense of the lawsuit initiated by the Gang of Four consider engaging their own counsel and shipping the bill to Rye, ideally with the agreement of the City. This would not only, I believe, solve the doctrine of necessity issue but eliminate other potential additional litigation costs which could be significantly well over $100,000.

The honorable way out.

Gang of Four withdraws lawsuit, reimburses City for all out-of-pocket expenses the City has incurred, apologizes to Board of Ethics and all RESIGN as the Republican and Democratic parties suggested.

Having lost the confidence of the community, the Gant of Four can’t govern effectively.
Rye deserves better.

The other members of the Council leave the advisory opinion in place, but apologize to the Gang of Four for any harm caused by public release of the non-binding advisory.

-Gerry Seitz


  1. Members of the Rye City. Council should learn to disagree without being so disagreeable!
    Their behavior is childish.

  2. Seven City of Rye council members were unified in their pursuit of tree conservation. They crafted new legislation to support this goal. In the days leading up to the passage of this legislation, The Group of Four (“G4”) became particularly concerned about tree cutting on a wooded lot adjacent to many houses—including a house belonging to the mayor.

    The Group of Three (“G3”) saw an opportunity to undermine G4 and exploit an ambiguous moral situation (whether the proximity of the wooded lot to the mayor’s house warranted special treatment). In doing so, G3 likely leaked a highly confidential government document to MyRye.com, leading to a biased article accusing G4 of supposedly unethical behavior. Consequently, the reputations of the G4 council members are permanently tarnished on Google.

    While the whole situation is an embarrassment, funding an investigation into the true ethics violators is the right path.


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