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Ethics board decides to investigate Hatzenbuhler

According to Ethics Board Chairman Peter Califano, the Ethics Board met this past Thursday to review a complaint received by a local resident about work done to the front porch of 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler’s home. The complaint alleges that Hatzenbuhler “rebuilt an entire front porch” without obtaining the proper permit and at one point in time posted an expired permit from 2011. According to Califano, the board decided to investigate further and will be holding meetings for “the next couple weeks” on Tuesdays at 5:30pm at City Hall’s annex building. Califano said that if the board determines there is an ethics violation, they will issue an advisory opinion to the Common Council.

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About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

24 Responses to Ethics board decides to investigate Hatzenbuhler

  1. Luis says:

    Tim, after finding out that Mayor Thane and City Counsel DeCusatis sit on the City’s “ethics board” and will review a complaint against Diane for doing permitted work without obtaining a permit I felt more information needed to be said on this subject because of how the Mayor and Corp. Counsel covered up a more gross violation of building work without obtaining a building permit in the past when two Alderpersons demolished and re-built a garage in the City that is still in violation of the zoning law.

    Now they will be reviewing a complaint against Alderwoman hatszenbular for a lesser violation is simply unethical and makes this process appear like a witch hunt. The prior council members steadfast refused to obtain permits when ordered to do so by the city’s codes dept. and City Engineer only to have the Thane administration undermine the codes office ability to enforcement the law. They refused to allow the matter to proceed to court for a hearing preventing the city law from being enforced fairly, unlike what Diane will get.

    A matter of fact when the prior council members refused to obtain a permit, the city attorney and Mayor provided them documents without them making a proper request. Later at a ZBA meeting for a text interpretation only, the Corp. Counsel tried shamelessly to petition the ZBA for a variance to the code on behalf of the alderperson/violator. All this recorded as the minutes of the ZBA meeting.

    I’m not here defending Diane in anyway on this subject but merely pointing out how this administration manipulates the City’s laws and rules to work in their favor. This is by no means how gov’t should work on behalf of the public.

    • Tim Becker says:

      The mayor appoints the ethics board, the corp counsel advises, but neither “sit” on the board or have a vote. That is not correct to say that Luis.

      • According to the revised Ethics Policy, the Ethics Board consists of 6 members. One non-voting member is supposed to appointed by the Common Council and serves at the pleasure of the Common Council. One of the 5 voting mayoral appointments is supposed to be either an appointed or elected official or city employee. Currently the board has only 5 members. Although they are using the revised ethics policy as a legal precedent to conduct this investigation, the board itself does not adhere to the new code with respect to the composition of its members or the provision that requires confidentiality of the complaint and the employee or official seeking advise. Holding public meetings violates that provision as does giving the press a copy of the complaint with the identity of the complainant redacted as the nature of the complaint is also confidential. If the Ethics Board sits in judgement of employees and officers, requiring them to adhere to a set standard of conduct, they should ensure that their actions are above reproach and adhere to the provisions of the ordinance set for them to follow as well.

  2. Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler is the victim of the City of Amsterdam Democratic Party who, on their Facebook page, went on record demanding the Ethics Board hold a hearing and demanding her resignation. The Ethics Board is investigating based on a new Ethics Ordinance that went into effect on October 22, 2014, after the porch repairs were completed. There is no violation of the previous ethics ordinance. The new ordinance contains a “catch all” that could apply to almost anything. “J. Appearance of impropriety. He shall avoid any appearance of impropriety.” It should also be mentioned that two members of the ethics board have been very vocal criticizing the Alderwoman on her private City of Amsterdam Small City Politics Facebook page about this issue and should recuse themselves from participation. Luis is correct, this is nothing but a witch hunt.

  3. Alayne says:

    Let them issue their advisory opinion to the POTUS, it means nothing! If there was as much time spent on city business as there is on revenge and social media, our city would be much better off!

  4. Luis says:

    Attached, anyone can read or reference the City of Amsterdam Building Construction Code for Administration and Enforcement of the NYS Unified and mandated Building Code. Within its written text you will read that once a code Official has exasperated attempts to remediate a violation to the Code, ” like work without permits” it dictates that the case must be forwarded to a competent court of law, note: the NYS Unified court system.

    NOT THE MAYOR’S ETHICS BOARD!!

    Follow the law Mayor because creating your own system of persecution is not Ethical or incompliance to local law!

    Section 90-1. Purpose and intent.
    This chapter provides for the administration and enforcement of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the Uniform Code) and the State Energy Conservation Construction Code (the Energy Code) in the City. This chapter is adopted pursuant to § 10 of the Municipal Home Rule Law. Except as otherwise provided in the Uniform Code, other state law, or other section of this chapter, all buildings, structures, and premises, regardless of use or occupancy, are subject to the provisions this chapter.

    Article X. Violations

    § 90-73. Enforcement; penalties for offenses.
    A.
    Compliance/remedy orders. The Division and the Fire Division are authorized to order in writing the remedying of conditions or activity found to exist in, on or about buildings, structures, or premises in violation of the Uniform Code, the Energy Code, or this chapter. Upon finding that any such condition or activity exists, The Division and/or the Fire Division shall issue a notice of violation/compliance order of the pertinent violation. The notice of violation/compliance order shall be in writing; be dated and signed by the appropriate Enforcement Officer; specify the condition or activity that violates the Uniform Code, the Energy Code, or this chapter; specify the provision or provisions of the Uniform Code, the Energy Code, or this chapter which is/are violated by the specified condition or activity; specify the period of time which the Enforcement Officer deems to be reasonably necessary for achieving compliance; direct that compliance be achieved within the specified period of time; and state that an action or proceeding to compel compliance may be instituted if compliance is not achieved within the specified period of time. The Enforcement Officer shall cause the notice of violation/compliance order, or a copy thereof, to be served on the owner of the affected property either personally, by registered mail/certified mail or by first class mail together with posting of the notice of violation and order to remedy on the front door of the subject property (if enforcement is sought pursuant to Subsection F(5) below). The Enforcement Officer shall be permitted, but not required, to cause the notice of violation/compliance order, or a copy thereof, to be served on any builder, architect, tenant, contractor, subcontractor, construction superintendent, or their agents, or any other person taking part or assisting in work being performed at the affected property personally or by affidavit of mailing or by registered mail/certified mail; provided, however, that failure to serve any person mentioned in this sentence shall not affect the efficacy of the notice of violation/compliance order.
    [Amended 2-2-2010 by L.L. No. 1-2010]
    B.
    Appearance tickets. The Division and the Fire Division are authorized to issue appearance tickets for all pertinent violations of the Uniform Code or this chapter in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law.
    [Amended 2-2-2010 by L.L. No. 1-2010]
    C.
    Penalties. A person convicted of any violation of this chapter, unless otherwise specified, shall be guilty of a violation. In addition to those penalties proscribed by State law, any person who violates any provision of the Uniform Code, the Energy Code or this chapter, or any term or condition of any building, electrical, heating, plumbing permit, certificate of occupancy/certificate of compliance, temporary certificate, stop-work order, operating permit, notice of violation/compliance order, or other notice or order issued by the appropriate Enforcement Officer pursuant to any provision of this chapter, shall, unless otherwise provided in this chapter, be subject to a fine of not more than $500 for each day or part thereof during which such violation continues.
    [Amended 2-2-2010 by L.L. No. 1-2010]
    D.
    Injunctive relief. An action or proceeding may be instituted in the name of this City, in a court of competent jurisdiction, to prevent, restrain, enjoin, correct, or abate any violation of, or to enforce any provision of the Uniform Code, the Energy Code, this chapter, or any term or condition of any building, electrical, heating, plumbing permit, certificate of occupancy/certificate of compliance, temporary certificate, stop-work order, operating permit, notice of violation/compliance order, or other notice or order issued by the Enforcement Officer pursuant to any provision of this chapter. In particular, but not by way of limitation, where the construction or use of a building or structure is in violation of any provision of the Uniform Code, the Energy Code, this chapter, or any stop-work order, notice of violation/compliance order or other order obtained under the Uniform Code, the Energy Code or this chapter, an action or proceeding may be commenced in the name of this City, in the Supreme Court or in any other court having the requisite jurisdiction, to obtain an order directing the removal of the building or structure or an abatement of the condition in violation of such provisions.
    E.
    Remedies not exclusive. No remedy or penalty specified in this section shall be the exclusive remedy or penalty available to address any violation described in this section, and each remedy or penalty specified in this section shall be in addition to, and not in substitution for or limitation of, the other remedies or penalties specified in this section, in §§ 90-12, 90-22 and 90-33 (regarding stop-work orders) of this chapter, in any other section of this chapter, or in any other applicable law. Any remedy or penalty specified in this section may be pursued at any time, whether prior to, simultaneously with, or after the pursuit of any other remedy or penalty specified in this section, §§ 90-12, 90-22 and 90-33 (regarding stop-work orders) of this chapter, in any other section of this chapter, or in any other applicable law. In particular, but not by way of limitation, each remedy and penalty specified in this section shall be in addition to, and not in substitution for or limitation of, the penalties specified in Subdivision (2) of § 382 of the Executive Law, and any remedy or penalty specified in this section may be pursued at any time, whether prior to, simultaneously with, or after the pursuit of any penalty specified in Subdivision (2) of § 382 of the Executive Law.
    F.
    In addition to the various violations or misdemeanors set forth in this chapter, the following violations are specified:
    [Added 2-2-2010 by L.L. No. 1-2010]
    (1)
    No individual, corporation or firm may perform work that is prohibited by a stop-work order at a site that has been posted with a stop-work order;
    (2)
    No individual, corporation or firm may perform work without a building, electrical, heating or plumbing permit if such permit is required by this chapter for the performance of said work;
    (3)
    No individual, corporation or firm may occupy or use a building without a certificate of occupancy applicable to that building that permits the occupancy or use;
    (4)
    No individual, corporation or firm may occupy or use a building that has been posted as unsafe pursuant to City Code Chapter 92;
    (5)
    Any person having been served, either personally or by registered or certified mail, or by first class mail together with posting the notice of violation and order to comply/remedy on the front door of the subject property, with an order to remedy any condition found to exist in, on, or about any building in violation of the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, who shall fail to comply with such order within the time fixed by the order, such time period to be stated in the order, and any owner, builder, architect, tenant, contractor, subcontractor, construction superintendent or their agents or any other person taking part or assisting in the construction of any building who shall knowingly violate any of the applicable provisions of the uniform code or any lawful order made thereunder regarding standards for construction, maintenance, or fire protection equipment and systems.
    (6)
    Each of the above specified violations shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $500 per day of violation, or imprisonment not exceeding 15 days, or both.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Luis, I understand the issue could be taken up in court, is that what you would rather see? I don’t see anything here that says that an issue *can’t* be brought up to the ethics board or that it is “unethical” to do that. Diane is an elected official, so there are greater implications here than if it were anyone else.

  5. Peter Califano says:

    Just to clarify, neither the mayor nor corporation counsel “sit on the ethics board.” Also, thank you, Jerry, for implying that I am up to something nefarious. If the mayor were in this situation, you’d be the first to call for public gallows.

  6. Luis says:

    Peter, can you then clarify since your at it why the Ethics Bd. is addressing the matter rather than the administration following local law? I hope these questions have been asked. I would think you would allow protocol to find guilt or non-guilt in a court of law before injecting your board in what would obviously be viewed by some as political. Any answer of we just received a complaint is nonsense since the Mayor is the Codes Dept. head and the Corp. Counsel dictates which cases proceed to court and this has gone on for some time now.

    • Peter Califano says:

      The Local Law is typically a last resort. As Mr. Platt stated when we interviewed him, the codes department would rather have people’s codes issues resolved then draw them into Court. If people work with that department and resolve their issues, they typically will not be cited.

      The Ethics Inquiry is a different matter altogether. The root of the ethics inquiry is not whether a code violation occurred, but whether an ethics violation did. These are two mutually exclusive concepts.

  7. Luis says:

    Tim,
    I’m sorry if you didn’t understand that I don’t treat an elected official any differently than any other citizen if they don’t comply with this law. Yes this issue should have gone to city court per the law. Then I could see the ethics board reviewing what could be guilt?

    My rights were trampled by this administration and I’m not going to sit idily by when I see the administration doing the same to someone else, even if I don’t agree with what that someone did.

    • Tim Becker says:

      The city’s ethics rules don’t apply to any other citizen. They apply to elected officials. There’s a reason for that. It’s because public officials need to be held to a higher standard in order to maintain public trust. That’s essential for our government to function. Diane’s offense itself was minor, I don’t want to see her go to court over it. But the offense has greater implications because of the office and positions that she holds. I hope most people understand that.

      • Luis, your rights were not trampled when you left . If anything, you were very well-treated given the circumstances. All parties agreed not to discuss this publicly, but if you open the door here, I’m willing to walk in.

        The terms set when you parted ways with the city were specific, as negotiated and agreed to with your union representative. Perhaps you ought to review them again.

        Unless, of course, you’d rather discuss them publicly.

        The misinformation you are promulgating is nonsense.

  8. Luis says:

    Tim, the state set up this unified system of building code rules and regulations along with checks and balances with the understanding that it needed to be transparent, “fair”, spelled out and apply to everyone across the state, except for state and federal agencies.

    Your belief here, that you can bypass this state executive law and local law on identified violations that fall under its authority and change it to a political issue of someone’s political standing is more important, is absolutely wrong! Your promoting a political resolution, I’m not. This is all about controlling the process and dictating an outcome.

    You cannot read this law and say “I don’t see where you can’t do this”. Tim if its not in the law than yes you cannot make up something to get around its strict conformity. If tried and found guilty its a criminal violation that does not go against your record although the penalty can be substantial.

    Seriously the complaint centers around why do I have to get a permit and an elected official doesn’t”. Local law provides a fair means for this resolution already, just do it!

    I find it strange that you appear to not want Diane to be held accountable for her actions but look forward to her being removed from office.

    • Tim Becker says:

      The ethics board can’t remove anyone from office. Maybe the common council can, but I doubt they would in this case. I would dare predict a censure is the worst that will happen.

      I’m not following you Luis. The city has ethics rules. If someone complains that an official is breaking one of those rules, the ethics board investigates and makes a recommendation to the council and the council determines what happens next, not the ethics board. As Peter mentioned above, the ethics board is not determining if there is a codes violation, they are determining if there is an ethics violation. They are two separate things. How on earth does that violate state law? Why even have a code of ethics and an ethics board if they are in contradiction with the state law as you are saying?

      As for the code violation itself, isn’t there a fine for that? I can’t imagine why taking Diane to court would be warranted.

  9. BTW, the Engineer is the head of the codes department.

    I didn’t bring this on Diane. She did. She is Deputy Mayor and Codes Chair. She illegally progressed a construction project without getting a permit. Why? I guess we will never know. A resident complained to codes about unequal treatment and brought this to the Ethics Board. I haven’t been involved in any of it. She owns her actions and the consequences.

  10. Luis says:

    Mayor, as you know the city charter in no way says the engineer is in charge, it specifically says you. Plus you have publicly stated many times of your direct involvement in your Dept.

    You ignore my questions and make statements that simply are nonsense. I have in no way said she is in the right, I said she should be given a fair hearing in the proper jurisdiction.

    Funny how someone who spends 90% of her time doing city business doesn’t known anything on this issue. Need I say anymore.

  11. Rob Millan says:

    Luis,
    “I said she should be given a fair hearing in the proper jurisdiction.”

    No, you didn’t. From what I read, you don’t think she should have gotten the violation notice much less be investigated. That’s not fair to people Diane has publicly attacked for her perceived codes ‘violations’ nor is it respectful to the Ethics Code.

  12. Luis says:

    Rob you need to go back to my very first post and then the additional ones were I reiterated that she should of gone to court, then the ethics Bd. should follow up.

  13. Luis says:

    Tim, we are not on the same page for remedial action to what Diane has done and to the complaint and where the ethics Bd. should due their part.
    As someone who has had to process many violators under the code the following is common to correct the issue of someone doing permitted work without permits, whether elected or not. We can’t impose fines on persons without first following the legal system as written within the law, as I copied for you above. I don’t know why you think Diane should be fined and then that’s it.

    If she is found guilty in a competent court of law the following should happen, used to happen but doesn’t anymore by this administration. 1. A fine is leveled by the judge! In accordance to the law, not the Mayor, council or political party or haters 2. Conditions shall be imposed, you are to apply and obtain a building permit for the work done, pay for it just like everyone else 3. This has to be done and inspected pass code within a certain timeframe or you are back in court for more fines.

    Tell me where this type of resolution does not address the merits of the violation and Hectors complaint?

    Now if the ethics Bd. wishes to conduct an investigation on what they do, so be it. But I do not agree with skipping court and making this what it has become typical Amsterdam politics.

  14. Luis says:

    Tim, I’m having trouble keeping track of some post I didn’t see. Peter, gave another response, I now read it and would agree there are two separate issues here. But I have to say Peter misunderstood of what the code official told him. While court is used as a last resort a code official cannot do nothing otherwise there is “no Code Enforcement” of the code! This in no way makes room for the ethics Bd. to step in although it sounds good if I was a one year code official and didn’t know better. My prior statement of how this issue should of been addressed is actually how Code Enforcement works when someone has disobeyed when told to come in and get a permit, I’m sure it was said more than once. Anything less leads to the failure of the code Enforcement program. Apparently the city codes dept no longer enforces codes based on what I read Peter say the code officer told me.

    I would bet that code official has about a years full employment as a code official and hasn’t met his total training like I have to know better that we have the total ability to retify the issue.

    Amsterdam had its strongest code Enforcement programs under the Duchessi and Emmanuel administrations and its now been destroyed under this administration.

    There is no leadership for the Codes Department today although I know there are great and talented employees looking to do their jobs unfettered by politics.

    Lost my lunch because I still live here.

  15. Joe says:

    Luis, you are clearly very proud of your accomplishments in code enforcement, and I certainly respect that. It might be helpful if you were equally versed in the workings of an ethics panel.

    I find it unfortunate that living in Amsterdam makes you lose your lunch; if I felt that way I would probably move

    • Luis says:

      Joe,
      Loss of lunch is due to the destruction of the Codes Dept. I know what they are up against. Poor leadership is leading to upwards to 500 vacant abandoned structures. I would gladly walk them streets with you and point them out for you? I could tell you what condition they were in and where they stood within the Codes dept. I see where they are today, past the painting and murals and what they once were. It’s so sad.

      I’ll stick to what I know but I would say the ethics bd. is by no means getting good advice.

    • Luis says:

      Joe,
      I don’t know if Tim has finished moderating my last post to this but I’m going pick upon what maybe your experience in ethics code I dont know but I will ask if the following is violating ethics rules although my experience not as you put it is not versed in ethics rule. Mind me I have already stated some of this because there were boards of people, officials current and past who heard it, saw it, know it and even others did news stories on parts of it because of censorship they were not able to get all of it and its happened pretty much as I say here:

      Changing the city’s zoning law in order to gain a certificate of occupancy on behalf of a friend and client? Covering up council members demolishing a garage and building another one in its place although the demo removed a pre-existing condition requiring a zoning Bd variance to the code. Then petitioning the ZBA for a variance when the meeting was publically called for as a text interpretation. Its still in violation because the common council member never applied for a variance to the code. Petitioning the ZBA on behalf of a private practise client to allow a tenant to move into retail space only for that tenant to be busted by APD for selling drugs. I ask you don’t you feel these officials should be investigated for ethical violations or should the ethics Bd. seek counsel and advise from them.