SCHENECTADY — The City of Schenectady Board of Ethics will consider conducting an investigation into Councilman Damonni Farley after Councilman John Polimeni filed a complaint with the board on March 9 regarding his fellow council member.
Polimeni has requested the ethics board investigate Farley’s consulting contracts with the Schenectady City School District and unpaid state income taxes.
During the council’s Feb. 21 meeting, Polimeni requested Council President Marion Porterfield file an ethics complaint against Farley on behalf of the council, after she declined he announced publicly that he would file the complaint.
Farley served as both a full-time employee and consultant for the city school district from 2015 to 2021.
Farley’s limited liability company Common Thread Consulting was paid approximately $581,418 from the district during that period, not including Farley’s district salary as a community outreach specialist. The district has stated that the arrangement with Farley was not illegal.
Farley said on Wednesday that he believes the complaint is without foundation.
“I have consistently been on record fighting for equity,” Farley said on Wednesday. “Challenging the status quo and standing up to bullying behavior in politics, which has become a pattern of behavior for Mr. Polimeni. Anyone who understands the nature of politics knows these efforts reflects that behavior. When someone makes a baseless claim and repeats it often enough, they do so with the expectation that it will sway the public perception in their favor. Fortunately, in this case, the school district has been extremely clear on this issue, multiple times. I imagine next he will be requesting my birth certificate to prove I’m an American. Either way, we will not be swayed. I welcome, what the late John Lewis referred to as ‘good trouble.'”
The state Department of Taxation and Finance filed a tax warrant on Feb. 13 seeking $29,070 in unpaid state income taxes from 2016 and 2017 from Farley, who said on Monday that he is currently resolving the fiscal matter with the state Bureau of Conciliation and Mediation Services.
“The ethics board will convene and do an investigation and I assume do their work,” Polimeni said on Tuesday. “I think that’s the appropriate manner. I think other agencies should be investigating this as well – whether we’re talking about the district attorney, state comptroller, state attorney general or all of the above. I mean we’re talking about taxpayer money here and potentially inappropriate use of funds by the school district and I think that needs to be investigated.”
Board of Ethics member Father Dominic Isopo, the pastor at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church in the city, said the current three-member board will be required to add at least two new members to form a quorum before the board can look into Polimeni’s complaint.
“I did receive a letter from John Polimeni and unfortunately, since the pandemic, the ethics board has not met,” Isopo said on Tuesday. “So subsequently, some of the board members have moved or some terms have expired. So, the mayor is now in the process of getting a slate of candidates together who will serve on the ethics board.”
The board is currently composed of Isopo, Lawrence Dahlke and Lawrence DeAngelus.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said on Wednesday that he hopes to fill out the ethics board expeditiously.
“We’re looking to update it for the next cycle of the [city] council,” he explained. “We’ve had some people who moved out of the area or are otherwise not there. So, we’ll get it set up in the next couple of weeks and then they’ll be able to review that.”
McCarthy said he was looking for city residents with integrity to fill the open seats on the ethics board.
“The complaint’s been filed and we’ll deal with it accordingly,” he said.
On Jan. 7, the Schenectady GOP also brought attention to Farley’s consulting contracts with the school district, filing a complaint with the New York State Board of Education regarding the matter.
“We take every letter very seriously and this is a serious letter,” Isopo said of Polimeni’s ethics board complaint, “so we will be working on it as soon as the board is reconstituted.”
Isopo added that when the board is convened that the group will have to determine if the complaint against Farley falls under the ethics board’s purview.
“I don’t know if the ethics board has jurisdiction for this,” he said. “My understanding is that we have a limited scope and that scope would be to investigate cases where there is a conflict of interest against the city from a city employee, so I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about it. So we’re waiting for the board to get together so we can investigate whether we are able to handle this from our limited perspective.”
Schenectady City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said on Tuesday that Farley’s consulting contract was not renewed when Soler assumed his role with the district in the summer of 2021. The district also terminated vendor contracts with TCA Consulting and Studer Education at the same time.
“Obviously I can’t discuss personnel matters, but there is no [consulting] contract in place and he’s fulfilling his regular role,” Soler said. “We ended that in July  when I arrived.”
Polimeni said on Tuesday that he did not inform Porterfield or Farley personally before he officially filed the complaint on March 9.
“The reason I think other agencies should be investigating this is the potentiality of violation of worker compensation laws as well as general municipal law and public officers law,” he said. “But the worker compensation law is very important.”
Farley said on Wednesday that he has not received notice from the city about the complaint.
“He said he was going to do it and I guess he’s just following through with what he said he was going to do,” Porterfield said.
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