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Obama Group's Use Of Greenburgh Town Hall Questioned

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — A local Obama campaign group has been using Greenburgh Town Hall as its meeting place for phone banks since August, which could constitute ethical issues for the town.

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner received several complaints from Republican activists Wednesday claiming that the group White Plains for Obama's use of municipal property for political soliciting violates both legal and ethical laws.

Since all Greenburgh Town Board members are Democrats, supporting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign could be viewed as a benefit for them, activists claimed. 

According to the Greenburgh Code of Ethics, public officers shall not allow the use of town-owned property for personal use or the use or benefit of others, "except when such services are available to the public generally or are specifically provided by the Town Board for the use of such public officer, employee or agency member in the conduct of official business." 

First Deputy Town Attorney David Fried, upon consultation with the state comptroller, said that a town may lease its property to private parties if it does so "in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner" and "only for fair consideration."

Town Attorney Tim Lewis said his research also indicated that a municipality may allow political parties to use its property, "provided that use is nondiscriminatory."

Feiner said he plans to allow White Plains for Obama to continue using the facility, but is still awaiting opinions on the matter from the Board of Ethics and the state Board of Elections.

"We don't want to create the impression that we're, as a town, promoting or opposing any political parties," Feiner said. "If the state Board of Elections says this is something we shouldn't do, we won't do it."

The town has not received payment from White Plains for Obama for any of its meetings, but Feiner now plans to begin charging the group $100 each session so that it fits with the attorneys' and comptroller's recommendations for leasing.

Multiple calls and an email to county Republican Chairman Doug Colety were not returned. Linda Bryant, co-chair of White Plains for Obama, also did not respond to phone calls.

Check back with The Greenburgh Daily Voice for further updates on this issue.

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