John McAuliff of the Coalition Against EPCAL Housing and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. Photos: Denise Civiletti

The civic coalition that filed a complaint with the Riverhead Board of Ethics against Councilwoman Jodi Giglio seeking her recusal from voting on the land sale to Calverton Aviation and Technology is says the ethics board’s decision amounts to a “free pass for conduct unbecoming.”

“The board’s decision was a limited technical interpretation that failed to address its broader mandate to address the overwhelming appearance of impropriety,” the Coalition Against EPCAL Housing said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

The coalition filed a complaint in April, arguing that Giglio should not vote on Calverton Aviation and Technology’s application to be designated a “qualified and eligible sponsor” to purchase more than 1,640 acres of land at the Calverton Enterprise Park, after the councilwoman met privately with company representatives during the pendency of a public hearing on the application.

“The board basically excused misbehavior by narrowing its focus and did not respond to the core of our complaint that ‘Ms. Giglio engaged in ex parte discussions that are inappropriate and unacceptable,’” the statement said.

Coalition coordinator Rex Farr of Calverton said the board’s decision lowered the bar on what is considered acceptable.

“There is no accountability for a private, secret meeting between a public official sitting in judgment, an applicant for Q&E approval and a real estate broker doing business with that applicant who had intimate knowledge of the property as a former CDA Director,” Farr said.

Giglio faulted the coalition for not accepting the decision of the ethics board, which its members had pressed the councilwoman to do prior to the decision being released.

“Now, that the ethics board has vindicated me, they will not accept the decision,” Giglio said. “It sounds oh too familiar as to what’s happening on the national level: character assassination, destruct, delay and resist.”

At a town board meeting Thursday, coalition member John McAuliff said the ethics board decision — which was provided to the coalition as complainant — should be made public.

The law allows the decision to remain confidential, according to Riverhead town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz.

“It’s nothing inherently personal,” McAuliff said. “There’s no logic why it wouldn’t be made public.”

Giglio pushed back.

“You insist that the ethics board answer a complaint that had no basis — no facts, no nothing to back it up, just a complaint that really had an effect on me and my family since April,” she said.

Giglio said she appeared before the ethics board three times, at least one hour each time.

“Now that they made a decision, you’re going to go after the ethcics board … and then once you get through destroying their integrity you’re going to come back and deem that there’s a different outcome. I don’t think you’ll ever be happy with any decision,” she said.

McAuliff said the coalition “aways assumed [Giglio] acted in good faith. The private meeting, he said, “created the impression of impropriety” and should “make it invalid for her to participate in the decision,” McAuliff said.

“I am honest. I am ethical and I am loaded with integrity,” Giglio countered, “probably more integrity than you have seen.”

We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.