Ethics complaint expected against Niskayuna Town Board member this week over vote involving daughter

Niskayuna Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw.

Niskayuna Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw.

NISKAYUNA – A Republican candidate for Niskayuna Town Board will file an ethics complaint against Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw after she didn’t abstain from voting on a resolution involving her daughter. 

Jason Maskowitz, who is running for a Town Board seat this fall, said he is waiting to have the meeting minutes from the May 25 meeting to attach to his complaint, but plans to file it by the end of this week.

The complaint alleges McGraw violated the town Code of Ethics because she voted in favor of a resolution to hire seasonal workers for the town – one of the seasonal workers being her daughter Caroline McGraw. 

The Code of Ethics states that a Town Board member or employee cannot use their position to help another town officer, employee, outside employer, outside employees, member of their household, customer or client, relative or “any firm, corporation, association, partnership or other organization in which the town officer or employee or a relative serves as an officer or director.” 

McGraw said she realized her mistake with the vote on Friday and proceeded to email the town clerk to have it changed so she had abstained from the vote.

However, Town Clerk Michele Martinelli said that is not a change she is actually able to make. 

McGraw said her daughter has worked for the town at the pool since she was 14, starting off as snack bar attendant, then becoming a lifeguard, then the head lifeguard and now as manager. 

Murphy McGraw said the complaint is just the Moskowitz family out to get her and her family. 

“The Moskowitz family has spent the last four years threatening and harassing me,” she said in an emailed statement. “It started the day after Election Day in 2017 when the senior Moskowitz sent me a message telling me I ‘better follow the chain of command now’ which certainly felt like a threat.  When I asked him if he’d like to meet to discuss his concerns (he was gone from Niskayuna before I was elected) he told me that was unnecessary, but reiterated I need to “fall in line.”  He followed up w/ a false claim about me that he released to the media.  Now the younger is going after my daughter.”

Moskowitz said he’s filing the complaint because he wants to hold McGraw accountable for her actions. 

“I can’t think of anything off the top of my head of other ethic violations, but I think that her doing it two years ago and then her doing a similar incident again this year just shows that she has a pattern of violating the Code of Ethics,” he said. 

In 2018 Moskowitz’s father, Lewis Moskowitz, filed an ethics complaint against McGraw for voting to continue a contract with Proctors Theater, which was a client of the lobbying firm McGraw works for. That complaint was ultimately dismissed without much explanation as to why from board members. 

The Town Clerk’s Office would not comment on how many ethics complaints have been filed against McGraw. 

When an ethics complaint is filed the Ethics Review Board, made up of five members from the community, will look over the complaint and determine if any codes were violated. If someone does violate town code there are four disciplinary actions that can be taken, said Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed. 

Those disciplinary actions are: 

  • The person could face a warning, reprimand, suspension or removal from office or employment and subjection to any other sanction that has been authorized under the law or a collective bargaining agreement.
  • A civil fine of up to $500 for each violation.
  • The person could be liable for damages to the town.
  • Any person could be charged with a misdemeanor and upon conviction the town officer or employee would forfeit their position.

In the past Syed has raised concerns regarding the Ethics Board and its members. However, she said she’s confident this board will do a proper inquiry. 

“I think the Ethics Board will be fair,” she said. 

She also said the board now consists of Paul Santilli, who was a professor of philosophy at Siena College, where he taught and wrote on ethics.

Other board members include Matthew Cutler, Tracy Cazer, Jill LaFlamme and Vincent Valenza. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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