Councilwoman Jodi Giglio listens to residents' comments during a June 5 town board meeting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, the subject of an ethics investigation arising out of her private meeting with Triple Five during a pending hearing on the company’s application in a $40 million land deal with the town, says she has not decided whether she will abide by any ethics board’s recommendation that she recuse herself from considering the application.

“I want to see the opinion from the ethics board before I make a decision,” Giglio said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Then she added: “Every application that comes before the board gets voted on, whether it’s a yes, a no, a recuse, an abstain — whatever. So I will be voting on it.”

Giglio’s comments came in an interview after a town board meeting where civic activists again pressed the councilwoman to recuse herself from the process of determining whether Calverton Aviation and Technology, a company controlled by Triple Five, is a “qualified and eligible sponsor” as required by state law.

Giglio was the only town official at the Triple Five meeting on March 12 in Manhattan, which she took without notifying the other town board members or the lawyers representing the town on the deal. The meeting took place on the eve of the scheduled continuation of a public hearing on the proposed sale by the town board. (The town board sits as the governing board of the Riverhead Community Development Agency, which holds title to the former Navy site once occupied by military aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman.)

Giglio vehemently denies any wrongdoing. She maintains that she accepted the invitation of Triple Five chairman Nader Ghermezian to meet with him and other company representatives on March 12 as part of her “due diligence” research into the qualifications of the prospective purchaser. She told the other board members about the meeting the next morning.

Prior to the meeting, the councilwoman had been a vocal opponent of the sale to any entity in which Luminati Aerospace had an interest — including, initially, Calverton Aviation and Technology. On Dec. 19, she voted against a resolution approving the contract of sale, which passed 3-2 with the support of former supervisor Sean Walter, former councilman John Dunleavy and Councilman James Wooten. On Feb. 6, she voted against scheduling the qualified and eligible hearing. On March 6, she voted against changing the hearing location to a larger venue, saying, “I’m not putting my name on anything to do with this.”

The next evening, March 7, Giglio attended a presentation by Triple Five principals and representatives hosted by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce. She has said that, in conversation following the presentation, Nader Ghermezian invited her meet with Triple Five in the city.

In an interview on the morning after the NYC meeting, Giglio for the first time publicly expressed support for the proposed sale.

Citing the NYC meeting, residents began demanding Giglio recuse herself from any further involvement in the qualified and eligible process. At the April 3 town board meeting, Angela DeVito of South Jamesport, called Giglio’s actions “a very big breach of trust” and asked her to recuse herself from the matter. Giglio told DeVito she would “absolutely not” recuse herself.

On April 17, the Coalition Against EPCAL Housing filed a complaint against Giglio with the town ethics board, arguing that Giglio’s ex parte discussions with the applicant were inappropriate and “tainted the qualified and eligible public hearing process” and have “irrevocably harmed” her ability to be impartial.

Giglio today voted on a resolution appointing outside legal counsel to assist the ethics board in their decision. The town board voted unanimously to appoint Bay Shore attorney David Besso to provide counsel to the ethics board as it considers the complaint against Giglio.

It came to light during the vote that there is more than one ethics complaint pending against Giglio in connection with the Triple Five/CAT matter. Supervisor Laura Jens Smith said the language of the resolution appointing Besso should be amended to reflect that. Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said he was unaware of other ethics complaints. He left the meeting to confer with deputy town attorney Erik Howard, who generally fills the role of legal counsel to the ethics board. When Kozakiewicz returned he said he had confirmed that there was at least one additional complaint filed. The resolution was amended to state that Besso would advise the ethics board on all complaints related to the original complaint.

Deputy Supervisor Tim Hubbard said the ethics board was asked if both he and Giglio could vote on the resolution appointing outside counsel for the ethics board. (Howard is Hubbard’s son-in-law.) The ethics board’s opinion was that both Giglio and Hubbard could vote on the resolution appointing outside counsel, Hubbard said.

The town’s ethics code requires town officers and employees to “act fairly, impartially, and without taint of conflict of interest and without any appearance of conflict of interest” in fulfilling their public responsibilities.

Under the town’s ethics code, the ethics board, after a hearing, can recommend that the town board take disciplinary action against any town officer or employee who violates the ethics code. That may be a reprimand, suspension, removal from office or employment or “any other sanction authorized by law,” including a “civil fine” of up to $1,500 for each violation of the ethics code. The ethics board can also refer the matter to the town board without any recommendation.

John McAuliff of Riverhead asked board members if they would “respect the recommendation of the ethics board” and they bristled at the question.

“Wow,” Hubbard replied. Giglio laughed but didn’t respond.

“I don’t know if I like the potatoes until I taste them,” Wooten said.

“This has gotten out of control and gone on way too long,” Joann Spanburgh Waski of Riverhead told the board. “It’s got to stop. I don’t know if you’re in support of special interest groups, but it’s time to wrap this up.”

The town board last month split 3-2 along party lines to conclude the qualified and eligible hearing, but the board agreed to postpone a vote on whether Calverton Aviation and Technology is a qualified and eligible sponsor until after the ethics board makes its recommendation on the complaint filed against Giglio.

The ethics board has met at least once on the Giglio complaint and on May 16 requested the appointment of outside counsel. It is not known whether the board, which conducts its meetings behind closed doors and does not publicly release information about its proceedings, has yet commenced a hearing on the matter. Giglio has retained Melville attorney Anton Borovina to represent her before the ethics board.


Correction: When originally published this story misidentified the speaker who asked the board if it would “respect the recommendation of the ethics board.” It was John McAuliff, not Rex Farr.

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