The Examiner

New Castle Candidate: Supervisor Using Ethics Code to ‘Dirty Me Up’

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A candidate for New Castle Town Board accused Supervisor Robert Greenstein last week of trying to haul him before the town’s Board of Ethics in a politically motivated attempt to sully his reputation as Election Day approaches.

Jeremy Saland, one of the town’s three prosecutors and running on the Democratic slate opposing the Republican-backed Team New Castle 2.0 ticket led by Greenstein, said he was contacted at about 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 by the town’s attorneys who questioned recent dismissals of parking tickets.

Saland said he was told by town attorneys Edward Phillips and Nicholas Ward-Willis that a resolution would be drawn up for that evening’s town board meeting to consider a referral of the matter to the Board of Ethics.

Saland, making his first run for public office, charged that Greenstein wanted to have his cases in town court reviewed in hopes of gathering information that could be used against him in the remaining weeks of the campaign.

“Rob Greenstein wants to find a way to dirty me up,” a livid Saland said last week. “The reality is I’m completely above board in every situation.”

He also said that he’s learned Town Administrator Jill Shapiro has been looking to see how much revenue is being raised through the prosecution of tickets.

“Jill Shapiro has been reviewing my cases looking for information on how much money I’ve gotten for the town, and that’s not what being a prosecutor is about,” charged Saland, a criminal defense attorney after having spent seven years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. “Rob Greenstein basically wants me to extract money from the residents. But being a prosecutor is about doing the right thing.”

Attempts on Monday to contact Shapiro, who was appointed by the current board majority to her post in January 2014, were unsuccessful, but Greenstein vigorously denied Saland’s charges of political motivation. He said that having a town prosecutor remaining active while running for office could give the appearance of currying favor with potential voters.

“I decided to wait before calling for a vote because the town prosecutor told our town attorney that he wanted time to research the matter, and he wasn’t due back in town court until after the election,” Greenstein said in a statement. “That was fine with me. But I do think that the question should be addressed by our Ethics Board for the benefit of future prosecutors and other appointed officials who might want to run for office. We had a similar controversy during the last town election. Everyone should play by the same rules.”

After the campaign is over, the town should address the issue of whether a prosecutor can continue to serve while running for town office, he said. Greenstein said he thinks a leave of absence might be appropriate.

Saland, who intends to step down as prosecutor if he wins the election, fired back at Greenstein’s comments about agreeing to give him more time as “a blatant lie.” He said he sat through a marathon town board work session and regular meeting last Tuesday ready to defend himself if the issue was raised in public.

Phillips said interest was piqued because town officials have been immersed in the 2016 budget process and noticed a large number of tickets recently that were dismissed. While no one is accusing Saland of unethical behavior, he said the issue is a legitimate one.

“The numbers are what the numbers are and they stand out,” said Phillips who acknowledged that the town’s current ethics code doesn’t specifically prohibit a town prosecutor from continuing to serve in a campaign for office.

On Oct. 1, the last time Saland served as prosecutor, 20 of 22 tickets were dismissed in town court that night. However, Saland showed The Examiner copies of parking tickets that he agreed to have dismissed with each one explaining the reason.

He also said that when he prosecutes tickets, he does not check whether the person before the court is a New Castle resident. About 2.6 percent of the more than 2,000 tickets that came before the town court in a six-month period earlier this year were dismissed, he said.

As of last week, Saland had dismissed 46 tickets this year compared to 74 by Stuart Miller and 34 by Alan Sash, the town’s other two prosecutors.

“The real story isn’t about Jeremy Saland dismissing tickets, it’s about their abuse of power, trying to use the ethics code as a sword against someone who they feel will endanger their futures,” he said.

Pace Law School Professor Jay C. Carlisle, who teaches the class Professional Responsibility and served on the state Bar Association’s ethics committee, said which public servants can maintain their positions while they run for office is often a murky area. Local ethics codes often fail to adequately address the issue, he said.

“It can be argued that it’s unfair because he has an advantage here, but I don’t see an ethical issue involved,” Carlisle said. “I think that if he’s elected for town board, at that point you have to leave.”



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