Complaints against Boos go to ethics panel
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published May 30, 2007
Two ethics complaints filed against former City Commissioner Martha Boos last November are under investigation by the state Commission on Ethics.
Boos confirmed that she was contacted last week by a special investigator for the ethics commission. She said she planned to meet with that investigator and the city's attorney, Michael Connolly.
"I don't think this has a leg to stand on, " said Boos. "It's a bunch of balderdash. I don't think I did anything wrong."
The complaints, one filed Nov. 29 by Randall and Rosemary Fedon and the other filed Nov. 30 by Denise Adis, allege that Boos attempted to use "undue influence" during a legal dispute over a neighbor's boat lift.
At issue was a lift constructed by Donald and Jane Colson that the Fedons said intruded into a setback prescribed under city zoning and building codes.
Last year, the commission, including Boos, authorized the city's attorney to file a civil complaint against the Colsons in County Court.
In March the court ruled in favor of the Colsons, stating that the city had not proved its contention that the boat lift building permit was issued erroneously.
The ethics complaints involve Boos' alleged conduct at a preliminary court hearing last year, when the Fedons and Adis say that Boos openly sat with the Colsons and later verbally confronted the attorney representing the city.
"She was very nasty to the attorney. She got very loud and was practically screaming at us, " Rosemary Fedon said Tuesday.
Fedon says Boos acted in clear "contradiction" to the City Commission's decision to pursue the Colsons in court.
"She needs to be fined or disciplined in case she decides to run again for the commission, " Fedon said.
Boos said her decision not to run for re-election in March had nothing to do with the investigation.
She acknowledged that she did sit near the Colsons at the hearing, but not for the reasons alleged by Fedon.
Boos also acknowledged that she questioned the presence of an unfamiliar attorney representing the city - and that she "yelled" at the Fedons and Adis "because they were yelling at me."
Both complaints used "similar language" to describe the incidents, Boos said, and include "inflammatory things" that she says are "politically motivated."
Boos also questioned why her ethics investigation has "become news" when there was no coverage of unrelated ethics investigations of other commissioners.
"This whole thing is being blown out of proportion, " she said.
Both she and Fedon said they were surprised that the investigation is beginning so long after the complaints were filed.
"There is no set time frame for investigating or hearing ethics complaints, " said Kerrie Stillman, public information officer for the ethics commission.
Stillman also said the ethics commission is prevented, by law, from commenting on any investigation prior to a determination of probable cause that a violation may or may not have occurred. That prohibition does not apply, she said, to either the accused or the accuser.
If the ethics commission were to find that Boos violated ethics rules, she could face penalties including a fine of up to $10, 000 per violation, public censure or reprimand. The final decision on a penalty is made by the governor.
Boos says Connolly advised her earlier this year not to hire her own attorney "because he didn't think this was going anywhere."
Now Boos is concerned about whether Connolly can represent her, if she should hire an attorney, and who will pay the legal bills.
When questioned on that issue this week, Connolly said the city has no set policy regarding payment of legal fees for former commissioners.
"That will have to be a commission decision, " he said.
[Last modified May 29, 2007, 19:35:17]
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