Board of Ethics adds new member, considers annual report

STAMFORD — The Board of Ethics has picked up a new member, its third addition over the last 10 months.

John Martelli, a longtime Stamford resident and registered Republican, attended his first ethics board meeting Thursday. Martelli works as an information management consultant at Deloitte and has not been previously involved in city government or politics.

“I was looking to volunteer and, out of the different opportunities that were presented, the Board of Ethics rose to the top,” he said. “I haven’t really been involved in city politics, but I did want to be involved with the city because it’s been good to me and I want to give back.”

Martelli said his lack of political baggage will allow him to approach the Board of Ethics’ work with impartiality.

“The way I see it is purely nonpartisan,” he said. “It would be looking at the claim and looking at the evidence that comes up and comparing that to the Code of Ethics.”

Martelli joins unaffiliated voter Daniel Sanchez and Democrat Bud Grebey as new members on the city’s ethics board. Chairwoman Cheryl Bader said she plans to schedule a refresher Freedom of Information training course for the entire board in light of the recent membership changes.

The Board of Ethics underwent FOI training over a year ago after the Freedom of Information Commission ruled the board’s hearing panel had improperly entered an executive session during a May 2011 meeting.

“I thought it was good training,” Bader said. “We’ve had such a turnover of the board that I think it would be beneficial to do it again.”

The Board of Ethics also voted Thursday to give its investigative panel a 60-day extension for its investigation of a pending complaint. It’s unclear when the most recent ethics complaint was filed, who lodged it or what it alleges.

Recent revisions to the city’s ethics code allow the board to dismiss grievances leaked to the media. Complaints only become public at the respondent’s request or if ethics board members find probable cause the ethics code has been violated; at which point the grievance is adjudicated through public hearings.

The ethics board has been relatively quiet since July 2011, when it dismissed the last of several public ethics complaints filed against three elected officials in April and May 2010. After fielding 11 ethics complaints over fiscal year 2011, the board convened only five times in 2012 and did not file an annual report with the Town Clerk.

On Thursday the board discussed its upcoming annual report to the Board of Representatives, which often proposes revisions to the Code of Ethics. Bader suggested renewing ethics members’ 2011 request to better define the term “interest.”

The Board of Representatives considered the term “interest” in its recent, extensive revisions to the city’s Code of Ethics but did not define it. Bader said she still finds the term to be unclear, and ethics board member Sarah Summons said she supports asking city representatives to take another look at it.

“If we are going to have to make a decision that really has some bite to it – we need a real solid policy to stand on,” Summons said. “Not some vague thing that they can wiggle out of.”