A Comment on Ethics Regarding the Spano Family in Government

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has been in office for almost 12 years, and now he is running for a fourth term. This would give him 16 consecutive years in office. Yesterday, Journal News/LoHud investigative reporter David McKay Wilson revealed that there are currently at least 15 members of the Spano family on the City payroll. This family collectively earns $2 million annually from the tax-paying citizens of Yonkers. These facts speak for themselves.

Here are some additional facts:

The City of Yonkers used to have a term limit law, which required the mayor and city council to leave office after two terms or eight years. Implicitly, the term limits law recognized that it’s a privilege to serve the citizens of Yonkers in elective office, but it isn’t a lifelong entitlement. Nor is it a jobs program for the Mayor’s family.

The Mayor and the City Council, which the Mayor influences, has now twice voted to extend the term limit law. First, to allow for a third term, and now to allow for a fourth. There is nothing that would prevent the Mayor and Council from extending their terms again and again.

The Yonkers Board of Ethics, charged with investigating and reporting on conflicts of interests-including hiring practices-seems to have not issued a public ethics opinion or report on an ethics investigation in many years. At least two of the board members listed on the City’s website are deceased, and it is unclear whether the terms of the other members have expired.

Similarly, Yonkers Inspector General Liam McLaughlin has issued only one relatively minor audit report since his appointment in 2020. As stated on the official government webpage, the IG is supposed to serve as an independent, internal watchdog tasked with detecting and deterring fraud, waste and abuse, as well as promoting ethical, fiscal and legal accountability in City government. The IG’s lack of productivity raises questions as to what the supposed “independent” inspector general is actually doing to justify that office’s 2023 budget of $729,200.

The collapse of ethics enforcement in our city underscores the need for term limits to be reinstated in Yonkers. This is why I am supporting a voters’ referendum to be placed on the ballot in this year’s election in November that would reinstate the City term limit law. Let the people decide if they want term limits. Common sense dictates that a mayor shouldn’t have 14 members of his family on the City payroll, and that no elected official should be allowed to serve 16 consecutive years in office. We need term limits in Yonkers.

Phil Zisman, was the first inspector general in the City of Yonkers serving from 1998 to 2010, and briefly served on the Yonkers Board of Ethics, appointed by Mayor Mike Spano.

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