NISKAYUNA — A Niskayuna resident has filed a Board of Ethics complaint against Town Board member Jason Moskowitz and Town Supervisor Jaime Puccioni stemming from a vote by Moskowitz to hire his cousin as a seasonal town pool employee.
Niskayuna Town Code stipulates that a town officer shall not take action that would financially benefit a relative, with the town defining a relative as a “spouse, child, stepchild, brother, sister, or parent of the town officer or employee.”
Moskowitz said on Friday that the complaint is meritless, as the code does not bar a board member from voting for a cousin who is a candidate for a town job.
Resident Kevin Duffy, a former Niskayuna Democratic Committee member, filed the complaint with Board of Ethics Chairman John Sharkey on Tuesday evening. The complaint alleges that Puccioni failed to ensure proper administration of the town’s affairs by allowing the vote on Moskowitz’s cousin.
Duffy said that he will not withdraw his complaint even though the town code does not include cousin in its definition of relatives and drew a parallel to a complaint then-candidate Moskowitz filed against then-board member Denise Murphy McGraw in June 2021 after McGraw voted in favor of the town hiring her daughter to work at the same town pool.
In 2022, McGraw was found to be in violation of the code by the Ethics Board, but was not reprimanded by the board.
“It will not cause the complaint to be withdrawn, at the end of the day this is a matter of equal justice and the highest court on the matter are the voters of Niskayuna,” Duffy said on Friday. “In light of the single-issue campaign against swimming pool nepotism Moskowitz ran two years ago, I think that this hypocritical deflection is all the information those voters will need to judge his term in office.”
During the Town Board’s meeting on Tuesday evening, the council voted unanimously to approve a slate of 95 seasonal summer park employees, with the list including Moskowitz’s cousin, who was hired at a rate of $16.25 per hour to serve as a head lifeguard/coach, the same rate as two additional head lifeguards who were hired. The resolution was offered by Moskowitz in his role as Community Programs Committee head.
“As chair of the Community Programs Committee, the resolution that I sponsored Tuesday evening hiring seasonal employees in the town’s Community Programs Department included a total of 95 names, one of which is in fact my cousin,” Moskowitz said on Friday. “While the code of ethics prohibits me from hiring a relative, section 17-3 clearly defines relative as a spouse, child, stepchild, sibling, or parent, therefore making Mr. Duffy’s complaint completely frivolous. My cousin has been a town pool employee since long before I was elected, and is paid at the exact same rate as every other employee with the same title. The alleged filing of this meritless complaint is the first of what I’m sure will be many attempts to distract voters from the real issues this election season, and it’s shameful. As always, I will ignore the petty politics and continue to work for the betterment of our community.”
Moskowitz and then-incumbent Town Board member John Della Ratta emerged victorious in a three-way race over incumbent board member Denise Murphy McGraw in November 2021, with Moskowitz up for re-election in 2025. Moskowitz is the lone Republican on the Town Board.
Puccioni on Friday said she was unaware that Moskowitz had a familial relationship with one of the summer pool employees.
“Councilmember Moskowitz never disclosed this information to me or any other board members,” she said.
Puccioni added that she would encourage Moskowitz to confer with Town Attorney Alaina Finan and seek guidance on whether he should recuse himself from the previous vote.
Coordinator of Community Programs Lori Peretti interviews and selects the candidates for the town pool positions.
Moskowitz’ cousin has worked for the town during the summer since before Moskowitz was elected to the board.
“She’s been with us forever,” Peretti said on Friday. “She started and worked her way up. She worked in our snack bar and then worked as a lifeguard and now she’s a head lifeguard.”
Peretti said that Moskowitz never pressured the department to hire his cousin for the summer pool role.
“Absolutely not,” Peretti said.
Duffy said he would not want to see the summer employee lose her job at the pool.
“The only complaint I’m making is against an elected official who’s engaging in nepotism,” he said. “I have no gripe with the young civil servant just trying to be a lifeguard.”
Duffy contends that Puccioni should also be held responsible for Tuesday’s vote.
“One of her main jobs as supervisor is to run the Town Board meetings and craft the agenda and she’s also the town’s chief financial officer,” he said. “So she allowed a vote on an appropriation that may have had unlawful elements … Obviously I’m not holding her as responsible as Jason here, but the law says what it says.”
Niskayuna Board of Ethics Chairman John Sharkey on Friday said the board will hold a hearing for each complaint the body receives.
The penalties for offenses to the town code for town officials include disciplinary action, civil fines and potential for any losses or increased costs incurred by the town as a result of the violation.
Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.
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