An outspoken city government watchdog claims that Mayor Anthony Sylvester violated the city ethics code by voting on a matter last year involving his employer.
Sylvester works at the Momentive Performance Materials plant in Waterford. Last April, he voted in favor of a measure supporting the company’s application to be designated a Foreign Trade Zone.
Companies within Foreign Trade Zones get breaks on federal tariffs for imported and exported goods.
The U.S. Department of Commerce controls Foreign Trade Zone designations. Momentive’s application was administered by the Capital District Regional Planning Commission.
Rocco Ferraro, the commission’s executive director, said that Momentive’s application was approved earlier this month.
“If they’re using the raw material to make something, then until that product is made, that’s when they will pay the appropriate tariff for the materials used to make that product,” he said. “It’s specific to the site.”
Ferraro said the company will save money because often times raw materials used to make products are valued at lower rates when part of a finished product than they would be individually.
Michael Coleman, who frequently speaks at City Council meetings, sent the city a letter earlier this month detailing what he claimed were five ethics violations by Sylvester.
Among them, Coleman said that Sylvester should disclose that he is a Momentive employee whenever the company is discussed at public meetings.
“I believe that the mayor is ethically challenged,” Coleman said. “He doesn’t recognize the difference between ethical and unethical.”
But Sylvester described himself as a “common laborer” with Momentive and said he only has occasional interactions with company executives.
“[Coleman is] just grasping at straws,” Sylvester said. “It would have no effect on my job if I voted yes or no.”
“How are you to know that when he’s dealing with his employer?” Coleman asked. “How do you know he’s not benefiting on the inside of the plant as an employee?”
A section of the city ethics code states that all city officials or employees should disclose any direct or indirect financial or other private interest that they have in any legislation being considered.
Sylvester said that, in hindsight, maybe he should have abstained from voting last year on the resolution supporting Momentive’s application.
“I think everyone in the audience and on the council knows I’m an employee there,” Sylvester said. “It’s not a hidden thing.”
Momentive is the world’s second-largest producer of silicones and silicone derivatives. The company purchased the Waterford factory from General Electric in 2006 and employs about 1,000 people there.
Momentive is now designated as a sub-zone, Ferraro said, as opposed to a general purpose Foreign Trade Zone such as the Rotterdam Industrial Park.
The only other active sub-zone in the area is a Rensselaer site owned by Albany Molecular Research, Ferraro said. The company manufactures and develops pharmaceutical products.
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