The Syracuse mayor’s twisted defense of a conflict-of-interest coverup makes a mockery of even the most minimum standards of openness in local government.
There is no justifiable defense for Mayor Fred Panucci’s telling city council member Doug Hammond to keep his familial relationship with a developer quiet leading up to a vote on a carwash project. Panucci says he advised Hammond to do so because he was concerned the project vote would focus on “people” rather than the merits of the project.
A don’t-ask-don’t-tell coverup was instead the worst way for Syracuse to handle this situation. If Hammond and Panucci had been open from the start, there would be no problem now. But the message they have sent is that a city decision in a political environment of their choosing was more important than the principle of city officials disclosing potential conflicts and operating in the open.
There is no room for political psychology ploys like Panucci’s. Disclose, consider and vote is the only ethical way. By choosing to hide the relationship, Panucci and Hammond betrayed their distrust of the local system of government. Ironically, their approach has brought taint to the carwash project issue that it may not have attained had Panucci and Hammond been open.