Richard Masur: Acting Justice Appointment

To the Editor:

Mayor Greg Schmidt recently appointed Mr. Peter Schuyler to be the Acting Village Justice of Croton on Hudson. This is an appointment that carries with it a taxpayer funded salary. The Mayor owes it to the Village to explain his reasons for making this choice and to reveal any potential conflicts that might have influenced his decision.

Mayor Schmidt ran and was elected as Croton Mayor and Trustee with the backing of the Republican Party several times in the past, but ran and was elected to his current office, in 2015, as a member of Croton United. Croton United has been chaired since its inception by Ms. Roseanne Schuyler, Mr. Peter Schuyler’s wife and partner in the Kitson & Schuyler law firm.

I wrote some time ago about the apparent lack of familiarity that the Mayor and his CU colleagues have with the need to avoid conflicts of interest in government. One of the examples that I cited involved Mr. Schuyler appearing before the Village Board on behalf of his legal client to ask for a waiver of Village rules to benefit that client. I made it clear then, as I do now, that I do not personally know of any ethical problem with Mr. Schuyler’s pursuance of his legal business before the Village Board, regardless of his relationship with the Mayor and the CU Trustees on that Board.

However, the Mayor and his CU colleagues on the Board had a duty to the Village residents to disclose the fact that Mr. Schuyler was the husband and law partner of the Chair of the political organization to which they belong and that was responsible for their election to their offices just weeks before. The voters have the right to decide for themselves whether such a relationship constitutes a conflict of interest and therefore casts doubt on the objectivity of the decisions made by the Mayor and his CU majority on the Board. Similarly, in the recent appointment of Mr. Schuyler to sit as Acting Village Justice in this Village’s court, issues and questions arise that have yet to be answered.

First, did Mayor Schmidt disclose his relationship with Ms. Schuyler and her position as the Croton United Chair when announcing her husband/law partner’s appointment? To my knowledge, no such disclosure has ever been made by the Mayor. Croton residents can draw their own conclusions about why the Mayor appointed Mr. Schuyler and failed once again to disclose his possible conflicts in making his decision.

Second, does Mr. Schuyler intend to refrain from representing clients with business before the Village for the duration of his tenure as Acting Justice? Does his wife and law partner intend to refrain from such activities? If they do not, will these potential conflicts of interest be disclosed by the Mayor and his colleagues? The residents of the Village deserve answers to these questions.

Richard Masur, Croton Democratic Committee Chair

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