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Home Government Mayor: Tartaglione Complaint is Over

Mayor: Tartaglione Complaint is Over

In a statement released this morning, Rye Mayor Doug French states the recent complaints brought against him and others in the City government are over and the Board of Ethics found no issue. He is calling for "to restore civility to Council Chambers". The statement follows:

February 7, 2012

Dear Resident – I am writing today to update you on the complaint brought forward by Ray Tartaglione of Purchase, NY and Leon Sculti of Rye against Rye's Mayor, City Manager, Corporation Counsel, Tax Assessor, Building Inspector and the Board of Ethics. I am able to report that the matter is now closed and attached is the finding from the Board of Ethics which essentially says that the Mayor neither sought nor received preferential treatment on issues related to his property; and that Rye homeowners in similar situations receive the same treatment. In the end, this has never been about an issue isolated to the Mayor, but about the process of selling and moving from a home that residents face everyday and are handled by City staff in the same way.

The Complaint
Last week in a process consistent with our Charter, I called for the City's Board of Ethics to review a complaint against me and City officials for allegedly acting improperly with respect to two issues — a legacy building violation and a misapplied STAR Tax exemption — on a residential property I own. The reason I called for a review by the Board was because of misleading press reports and statements from elected City officials which were parroting the allegations by the accusers and distorted the issues without looking at the facts of the matter at hand. As the persons being accused, there were never any specific charges or facts of misconduct directed at me or City staff, just allegations about the perception of the possibility that improper behavior could have taken place. Really? Here are the facts:

The Building Violation
In July of this year, a complaint was phoned into the Building Department about a potential illegal finished bedroom/storage on the third floor of a single-family rental home I own that was being shown for sale. This is common in Rye and that is how we bought it. Tragically, the City Building Inspector passed away in August and a violation was subsequently issued once a new inspector was in place — just like with any resident. In my case, the alleged building violation happened 40 years ago — I was in the 3rd grade, and most likely given the minimal work done it was not a violation at that time. However, we have taken the steps necessary to comply with today's regulations as the process requires. I have believed for a long time and will work with the Council to focus on how the City can better facilitate with home-sellers who find themselves in the position of having to legalize work that was done by previous property owners.

The STAR Tax Exemption
STAR is a New York State program that was changed in 2011 and as a result, many flaws in the program and discrepancies arose this spring on properties not just in Rye, but statewide in the administration and eligibility of the program. As required, we had filed our new primary residence when we moved homes in 2000. However, in many cases, the STAR exemption is not removed from a previous property owner when the owner files a new application. The standard procedure when discrepancies are found with exemptions is that the exemption is removed going forward – although the law does allow for a look back period of up to 3 years by the taxing authority, in this case New York State. Unlike how these issues are normally handled, my position has consistently been "we owe what we owe" — so I applied as part of an amnesty program and have made full restitution plus penalties based on the calculations submitted to me by the County Tax Assessor on January 19th.

The Process
Finally someone, in this case the Board of Ethics, took the time to examine the facts and understand the issues amidst the calls by the accusers for independent investigations, conflicts of interest, and separate legal counsel. The people of Rye have been very supportive and have seen this for the episode that it is. The most disappointing aspect though has been how quickly some media reports and elected official comments have passed judgment in-line with the allegations of the accusers which attempted to harm the reputations and call into question the integrity of those that work for and serve the City.

While stopping short of calling for an apology to those that have been falsely accused, I am calling to restore civility to Council Chambers. Skepticism of government is healthy, but continuing personal attacks on ones motives and reputation has turned that skepticism into an obsession as been displayed the last few months. Yes, mistakes will be made, but they get corrected. It's time to get back to solving the problems of Rye that the residents care most about. We volunteer to serve the public for the simple reason that we care about our community.

Douglas French
Mayor, City of Rye

  1. Mayor French:
    I trust Rye’s taxpayers will not pay the City Corporation Counsel’s invoices for attending the(2) Ethic’s Committee meetings? Your private financial transgressions should not be the responsibilites of the taxpayer!

  2. The below sent from Leon Sculti;

    To Whom It Concerns:

    CORRECTING THE RECORD
    In response to the mayor’s update below. I would like to correct the record in clarifying that I never brought a complaint against Mayor French to the Ethics Board, nor did I ever advocate for such action–and you will find nowhere in the public record where I did.

    As a matter of fact, I would like to point out, that Mayor French actually brought the second complaint against himself by asking Deputy Mayor, Peter Jovanovich, to do just that. Therefore, the mayor would have been more accurate in saying the complaint was “brought forward by Ray Tartaglione of Purchase, NY and Me of Rye against Myself.”

    DOCUMENTED PROVEN FACTS
    What I did was simply make a video accurately documenting the mayor’s 19 year ownership of a property in violation of Rye City Building Code–the video was sourced throughout with records from City Hall, Westchester County Land Records and Mayor French’s own MLS listing sheets, supporting each fact contained therein. Two days after the video was posted, and widely viewed, Mayor French was issued violations by the City of Rye Building Department for the exact illegal building activities detailed in the video. These are proven facts.

    I also covered the mayor’s decade long improper School Tax Exemptions in the video–well after it had been reported in the press. Last week, again, according to Mr. French himself, the mayor paid more than $16,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties to Westchester County’s Tax Commission for his ill-gotten tax savings. These are proven facts.

    FALSE CITY REPORTS NOT PURSUED FOR REVIEW
    In the video I also reported the fact that a leading national title company received a false report from the City of Rye Building Department in October 2011, stating that the mayor’s property at 13 Richard Place was a legal single family home. Subsequently, the city was forced to release an amended and corrected report identifying the house as a legal two family home. Those documents were fully disclosed in the video as well. No member of the city council has asked to see these documents or asked to speak to me regarding this specific issue, and I have never sought to meet or speak with any of them in any way to pursue the issue. Again, this is a fact.

    I never pursued any of these issues for any kind of sanction against the mayor. I made the public aware of them through the making of the video itself.

    MAYOR GIVEN FULL DISCLOSURE
    In the interest of full disclosure, before making the video I notified Mayor French, in detail, of the information regarding his investment property that I had researched and found. I offered him the opportunity to sit down for an on camera interview at Rye TV so he could address the issues. The mayor never responded to my request. The point is, even before the making of the video I was open and forthcoming with the mayor, who refused to address the issues.

    THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO BE INFORMED
    Since Rye TV decided not to video tape the recent Ethics Board hearing, I video taped them both so the public could be kept informed. I also reported on the Ethics Boards political contributions to the mayor’s campaign in 2009 as did other news outlets–again so the public would be informed of the facts. Although the publicity of the “disrespectful” nature of the boards conduct, as stated by NYS Open Government officials, may have been brought to light by the video taping itself. I certainly did not call for these meetings. I documented and reported on them.

    QUESTIONS, NOT ACCUSATIONS
    I have never advocated for Mayor French to be sent to the Ethics Board. I simply disclosed and reported the facts of his illegal building and circumstances surrounding it. These are not accusations, these were once questions based on facts, that have turned into to be proven true. I am joined by the Rye Record, LoHud, The Rye Sound Shore Review, The Rye Patch and The Daily Rye in reporting on these issues. The City of Rye Building Department and The Westchester County Tax Commission have each validated the veracity of the facts reported by penalizing Mayor French for his actions.

    I did not receive multiple violations from the City of Rye for owning and operating an illegal investment property. I was not required to pay more than $16,000 in taxes and penalties to Westchester County because I claimed two STAR exemptions. I did not run for Mayor. And I did not forward a complaint to the Ethics Board against Mayor French.

    I simply asked questions, reported the facts and documented the truth–which I will continue to do. If the Mayor is looking for an apology, he should start writing one now, to the people of Rye.

    With respect to all,

    Leon Sculti

  3. The below statement was recently released by Councilmen Sack;

    “Unfortunately yet predictably, the flawed process used to arrive at this outcome will only cast even more doubt on the issue, rather than help us to move on from this unwanted distraction,” Sack said. “On top of it all, we still don’t know the facts, which is why we still need an independent investigation so we can find out what happened from an unimpeachable source, make our own judgments, and put this matter behind us.”

  4. I didn’t vote for the Mayor and I dont always agree with the City Council but I’m proud to live in Rye and I think the Ethics Board did a good job. Also I think it’s ironic that the person causing all the fuss about our government and about the environment, is, himself a polluter who, research shows, contracts with a carting service with known paint and solvents disposal violations. I live near an auto business similar to the one that this person runs and I am very worried about the health of my children.

  5. Ms. Green,
    FYI, My Shop in White Plains (www.rjtauto.com) has been in operation for over 38 years we are licensed and inspected by the State of New York, the County of Westchester, the City of White Plains, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) also licenses our fleet of trucks. Inspections take place about six to eight times each year.

    I would suggest if you have information that we or the body shop next to you, are breaking the law or polluting in any way shape or form you report it to one of the above agencies. I am not aware of it and happen to pride myself in our respect of the environment as it related to our business. We recycle freon, antifreeze, oil and related products, paint byproducts and even rags that we use. We also keep detailed records of the same as required by law. That being said, if you know something that, I do not about one of our disposal vendors, please let me know the issue and their name, as we will stop dealing with them immediately.

    On another note about three years ago we removed a heating oil tank on the premises. After testing as required, it was determined the tank was leaking. We spent over 400,000.00 dollars to remediate the issue. It was recently determined that Mayor French converted his heating system from oil to gas and I believe he also removed an oil tank. Did he have it tested? Was his tank leaking? Do you know what went on @ 13 Richard Place and are you also proud of that?

    On the other hand if you happen to be one of Mayor French’s neighbors or friends that is just making up false stories, (as the ones I have seen recently posted on our YOU TUBE site) maybe you should save that story and share it with the Mayor’s other neighbor Gary Stone that was photographed vandalizing my vehicle on Purchase Street. I can be reached @ 914-948-1100 should you want to meet or share any information with me.

  6. You’re quite right Sarah, Auto Body Shops emit a toxic cocktail of carcinogenic air pollutants including, Perchloroethylene, Hexavalent Chromium, Benzene Metals, Solvents Solvents2, Methylene Chloride Solvents, Perchloroethylene Diesel Particulate Matter Solvents Diesel Particulate Matter. What’s more, studies show these types of facilities should not be located anywhere near homes. But Mr. T’s facility is located just 100 meters from a residential neighborhood including Kittrel Park where toddlers and infants play in the playground.

  7. Sarah & Tar,

    Drive around Westchester and list all the body shops that are not in some way next to any residential dwelling?

    All Auto Repair Shops are under the very watchful eyes of the DEP/OSHA. Our shops are frequently visited and ALL NYS LAWS are strictly enforced.

    I have visited Ray’s shop on many occassions and
    I can assure you that Ray runs a very tight ship and follows the law to the letter.

    Up until this very moment there has not been one shred of evidence, accusation, or allegation that Ray can not back up or hasn’t already!
    Where is your proof?

    YOUR SLANDER & FALSE ALLEGATIONS are not appreciated!

  8. You don’t need to be sherlock holmes to type “auto body toxic” into google and quickly realize these places are hell on earth. It doesn’t take Christopher Columbus to type Mr. T’s address into google maps can see his shop is located right near a playground. Even homer simpson would realize that blowing toxic fumes through an exhaust fan into a playground for 38 years is really, really bad for children.

  9. Louis V.,

    Respectfully not looking for a pissing contest on this….if you strongly disagree to this degree you need to take this up with your Government.

    Like I said, it is all legal and well enforced!

    Here is a thought for you to “GOOGLE”….let me know how many “Auto Body Shop” owners and or workers are dead or permanently Ill from these “toxic” fumes.
    Every single one of these individuals are in direct contact
    with what you consider “toxic”for a minimum of 8 hours a day.

    If you have trouble researching this maybe you can ask Christopher Columbus & Sherlock Holmes to assist you!!!

    Curious to know when yourself, Sarah,and Raymond Tar need Auto Body Repairs do you drive around or google until you find one with ZERO RESIDENTIAL DWELLINGS near by???

  10. Louie Louie,
    If you are going to give us a plug, please use the complete information;

    RJT Motorists Services Inc.
    101 Westmoreland Ave
    White Plains N.Y. 10606
    Ph. 914-948-1100
    Fax. 914-997-2167
    e-mail- service@rjtauto.com
    Think of us as a health assurance card for your car!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR7aIT-ku2U

    PS: Please try to keep in mind that I did not renovate an entire house without permits, I did not cheat the taxpayers of Rye out of thousands of dollars in school tax monies and I did not refuse to enforce health, safety and environmental laws on Hen island. Your neighbor (Mayor Doug French) on Meadow Place did.

  11. Sara,
    For the record, there are four automotive shops that border the playground that you are referring to. I would be happy if you would complain and are successful at getting them closed down. I am two block away and that would help increase our customer base.

    On another note, I find it interesting that you and a few others supporters refuse to use your real name when posting in support of your cheating, lying Mayor/ neighbor and inaccurate BS attacks on myself. That is, with the exception of the Mayor’s other neighbor Gary Stone who was caught red handed and photographed vandalizing my vehicle on Purchase Street in Rye. I must say, I do give credit to Tom Siano (Gary Stone’s other friend) who was man enough to use his own name in support of the cheating, lying Mayor. For that we give Mr. Siano; one atta boy! ATTA BOY Tom

    You might want to watch your hero in action at the last council meeting;
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGRe_hCy9qM

  12. Not only is this so called “complaint” not over – the real scandal rollout is in its early stages –

    “City Employee’s Explosive Complaint Leaked to The Rye Record”

    “Part of the job is bullshitting people at Council Meetings” – RyeTV’s Nicole Levitsky

    “The issue of videotaping has been a conflict between the Mayor and Joe.” – City Mngr Scott Pickup

    http://www.lausdeo10580.com/lausdeo10580/2012/02/whistleblower-ethics-complaint-leaked-to-the-rye-record-laus-deo-has-learned-that-a-letter-written-and-delivered-to-members.html

  13. @ Sarah,

    Since you feel so strongly about this topic may I ask you 2 questions….

    1. What is the name of the Auto Body Shop you use and it’s address?

    2. What are you doing to put a stop to this with all those children in danger?

    @ Mister,

    How long did it take for you to come up with that one…….
    you are an absolute genious!!!
    You must be a Harvard Graduate!

  14. Ted C,

    Interesting how Mr. Pickup once again attempts to protect Mayor French and goes against Councilmen Sack and Councilwomen Parker. What happen to the transparent platform French ran on in 2009?

    Mr. Pickup and Ms. Wilson is well aware that their jobs are finished as soon as Mayor French is out. So let’s try and milk the Taxpayers of Rye as long as we can! That is why they are trying to protect the Mayor so vigorously with his illegal building and STAR tax issues. Mayor French’s and everyone that is trying to protect him is becoming exposed. With the latest sequence of events we now we call for Mr. Pickup’s resignation as well as the Mayor’s. It appears that Oliver Stone has come to town Mr. Jovanovich and you invited him here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy0aBtzUbXQ

  15. Ray, what is it like being the worlds biggest A-Hole? I am just curious. Every day when you wake up you go out in the world to one certainty–you are the worlds biggest A-hole…Congrats! I think its time you tasted your medicine…

  16. So Chris, can I assume you did not like the video? Here is how I see it. If you can’t attack the facts on an issue, attack the person. That always works???

    Do you think I am the world’s biggest A-Hole because I expose your friend and neighbor Mayor French as he allows you and other Hen Islanders to pollute the Sound with your excrement, allows residents to use bird feces infected water to bathe and clean cooking utensils and allows Westchester County’s worst mosquito infestation to continue? Or do you think I am the world’s biggest A-Hole because I am exposing your friend and neighbor Doug French for renovating and entire home without permits and cheating on his taxes?

    Can you tell me what address you live at on Meadow Place and Hen Island. I might want to share a drink with you, when this is all over.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy0aBtzUbXQ

  17. Mr. Henn,

    Do you not want to comment on our City Manager & Mayor?

    Are you actually condoning what they have done?

    You actually took the time to call an “honest” person an “A-HOLE” rather than questioning the “A-HOLES” in question?

    Go back to your Henn Penn foolish little child!