64.9 F
Friday, September 29, 2023
Home Government City of Rye LETTER: Gang of Four & How Boss Tweed Made His Money

LETTER: Gang of Four & How Boss Tweed Made His Money

In an open letter to the New York Conference of Mayors, former Rye Councilman Gerry Seitz questions the guidance City of Rye Mayor Josh Cohn says he received from the group in regarding to the Mayor’s lawsuit against the City’s Board of Ethics. Seitz has been outspoken on the Mayor’s lawsuit (see his prior letter).

(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.)

Peter A. Baynes
Executive Director
New York Conference of Mayors

Dear Peter:

Mayor Josh Cohn and three other members of the Rye City Council (the “Gang of Four”) have circulated an unsigned document not on NYCOM letterhead which they refer to as NYCOM Ethics Guidance.

See copies of Cohn’s letter and the Ethics Guidance, both dated August 2. [see these documents here]

According to this Guidance, NYCOM’s position on the issue of recusal (the requirement that one who is conflicted on a financial matter before the Council must step aside and not vote on the matter) is:

“Recusal should not be required when it would prohibit a majority of a decisional panel from acting”.

What does this mean?  How would it work?

Hypothetical example, I and three other members (the “Connected Gang”) of a seven-man city council own a paving company (“Connected Co”).

Contract for paving Main Street comes up.

Connected Co’s bid is three times that of the next highest bidder and warranty is 80% shorter.

The Connected Gang, following NYCOM’s position on recusal (based on the Ethics Guidance put forward by the Gang of Four) vote for Connected Co.

Here’s how the numbers play out:

Recusal Low Bid Connected Co Bid People Voting Winning Bid
Current Rye By-laws $1,000,000 $3,000,000 3 (7 less recusals) $1,000,000
NYCOM (as per Guide) $1,000,000 $3,000,000 7 (no recusals) – Connected Gang Votes $3,000,000


This is how Boss Tweed made his money and the Connected Gang is off to the Bahamas!

How did this Guidance document come about?

Cohn acknowledged at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that the unsigned Guidance was, in fact, drafted by him and submitted to NYCOM as his understanding of NYCOM’s position.  (See Rye TV Government Videos August 9, 2023, Item 14.  Ignore first half.  Wait ‘til Bill Henderson speaks).

The Gang of Four is a majority of the seven person Rye City Council whose current by-laws require a member of the Council to recuse himself/herself from taking any action on a matter in which he has  a direct or indirect financial interest.

On June 16, the Gang of Four called a special meeting invoking the rule of necessity so they could vote on having Rye reimburse them for their legal expenses incurred  in their suit against the City, obviating their obligation to recuse themselves due to their clear conflict of interest.

The three non-conflicted members of the Council were present and out voted, 4 to 3.  The Gang of Four, constituting a “majority of a decisional panel,” prevailed and then awarded themselves up to $45,000 in legal fees.

Frankly, I doubt John Mancini who worked on the Guidance in consultation with the Gang of Four, was aware of all the facts or focused on this particular language in Cohn’s presentation which apparently focused on the Board of Ethics advisory opinion rather than on the action of the Gang of Four in reimbursing themselves for their legal fees.

The recusal issue as set out in the Guidance would support the action of the Gang of Four on June 16 (a separate and, in my view, a far more important issue than the litigation).  Essentially, it says an individual, who would have otherwise been precluded from voting on a matter in which he has a financial interest, is not required to recuse himself if he and his colleagues-a Gang of Four-constitute a majority.  See example above.

I don’t think this properly reflects NYCOM’s position.

New York is not a banana republic.

Since I am no longer a member of the Rye City Council or serve on any of the other Rye boards on which I’ve served in the past, I have no legal standing and you can dismiss me and my concerns accordingly.

However, I would recommend two things:

  1. If the recusal language does not reflect NYCOM’s position, NYCOM direct Rye to circulate a retraction of all references to the Ethics Guidance and to NYCOM to the same people and on the same terms and conditions as its August 2 statement;
  2. To avoid similar situations, NYCOM direct its members not to circulate statements to the public as to the position of NYCOM on any matter without getting prior written approval from NYCOM.

I request the favor of a reply-even if it’s simply to tell me that, since I have no standing, you must ignore me.

If you so elect, I ask one of the members of the Rye City Council to request your response to this letter.  Perhaps, Josh Cohn, maybe you, since you could also simultaneously respond to my comments and suggestions.

Many thanks.


Howard G. Seitz

cc:  Rye City Council

John Mancini, New York Conference of Mayors


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here