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Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 1 

Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 

Town of Milton 
Board of Ethics 
Investigation and Opinion 
October 24, 2018 
Ethics complaint form filed April 25, 2018, filed by Robert Keihm against Ethics Board Member Brenda 
Baird; Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander; Town Board Members Benny Zlotnick, John Frolish, and Frank 
Blaisdell citing alleged violation of §14‐19(B)(6)(i) of the Town of Milton Ethics Code (see attachment 
A and B ).  
Upon receipt of an Ethics Complaint form, the Milton Town Board of Ethics is obligated to undertake 
an investigation culminating in an advisory opinion relative to alleged violations outlined in the filed 
complaint.  This process is outlined in §14‐20 in the Milton Town Code of Ethics. 
Background Information 
The complaint alleges that on February 28, 2018 the above listed board members voted to appoint 
Ms. Baird to a position on the Ethics Board, despite the Ethics Board advising the Town Board that 
that Ms. Baird had significant conflicts of interest. 
Ethics Board members met with and interviewed Mr. Keihm on June 12, 2018 pursuant to the filed 
complaint. Mr. Carlson, Mr. Gomula, Mr. Grandin, and Mr. Harkins were present from the Ethics 
Board. Mr. Grandin has resigned his position on the Ethics Board as of June 14, 2018. 
Ethics Board members met with and interviewed Mr. Frolish on June 28, 2018 pursuant to 
the filed complaint. Mr. Carlson, Mr. Gomula, and Mr. Harkins were present from the Ethics Board. 
Mr. Frolish chose not to bring representation to this interview. 
The Ethics board members met with and interviewed Brenda Baird on July 24, 2018 pursuant to 
the filed complaint. Mr. Carlson, Mr. Gomula, and Mr. Harkins were present from the Ethics Board. 
Ms. Baird chose not to bring representation to this interview.  
Ethics Board members met with and interviewed Mr. Zlotnick on August 28, 2018 pursuant to 
the filed complaint.  Mr. Carlson, Mr. Gomula, and Mr. Harkins were present from the Ethics Board. 
Mr. Zlotnick was accompanied to the interview by John J. Carusone Jr. of  Carusone & Carusone  
Attorneys At Law. 
Ms. Baird is a current member of the Ethics board and has been excluded from this investigation due 
to being a target of the complaint.  

Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 2 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 
Summary of Investigation 
The complaint alleges that Ms. Baird participated in the election Campaign of Mr. Frolish. Mr. Frolish 
stated  that  he  was  aware  of  Ms.  Baird’s  participation  in  the  campaign  gathering  signatures  for 
approximately 4 hours, on behalf of the republican party to support the republican ticket for 2017 
campaign. Mr. Frolish noted that the hours Ms. Baird worked were a small part of the approximately 
2000 hours worked by her and others on the campaign. That campaign ticket included the Mr. Frolish, 
as well as other republican candidates. Mr. Frolish noted that there was “no gain” for Brenda nor Mr. 
Frolish in her appointment to the Ethics Board and that he had no regrets in relation to his actions in 
the manner.  
Ms. Baird stated that she and her husband collected signatures on two separate occasions on behalf 
of the republican ticket noted above during the summer of 2017. She estimated the time spent at 
between  6  to  12  hours  total.  She  stated  that  the  Mr.  Frolish  is  the  individual  who  handed  her 
assignment during these canvasing events. In addition to the canvasing work, Ms. Baird stated that 
she also attended a BBQ and a Holiday Inn event, both events were related to her work toward the 
campaign. The Mr. Frolish attended these events as well.  
Ms. Baird further stated that she had worked as an Election Commissioner for Saratoga County. In this 
capacity she had contact with Brenda Howe who assigned Election Commissioners to their respective 
polling places. Upon the resignation of Ms. Howe, Shannon Doherty performed the same duties with 
respect to Ms. Baird. Ms. Baird advised that her contacts with these two individuals were limited to 
being assigned by them. Ms. Baird no longer performs as an Election Commissioner and has no contact 
with Ms. Howe or Ms. Doherty. 
At a Town board meeting on January 24, 2018 Ms. Baird was put up for approval to sit upon the Ethics 
Board. The motion was not carried by a vote of 3 to 2 with board members Kerr and Zlotnick dissenting. 
Mr.  Frolish  stated  that  public  disclosure  of  the  campaign  work  of  Ms.  Baird  was  made  public  via 
discussion at the January 24, 2018 board meeting and that he acknowledged that relationship in a 
public forum at that time.  
Additionally, in the interim period there was communication between the town board and the Ethics 
Board  in  relation  to  Ms.  Baird’s  candidacy  for  the  Ethics  Board.  Then  Chairman,  Robert  Keihm 
(complainant) noted the concerns at the subject of this complaint to Town Attorney Craig, Supervisor 
Ostrander, with the rest of the town board on carbon copy (see attachment C and D). 
At the February 28, 2018 Town Board meeting, Ms. Baird was again put up for a vote with Mr. Zlotnick 
putting forth the motion. The vote was carried 4 to 1 with Board Member Kerr being the dissenting 
vote. At this time Mr. Keihm and Mr. John Bory resigned from the Ethics Board in protest, voicing 
concerns related to the content of the complaint. 
Mr. Zlotnick stated that he met with Mr. Keihm and Mr. Bory after their resignations from the Ethics 
Board in a private meeting with the goal to discuss the matter and perhaps get them to reconsider 
their resignations. Mr. Keihm felt that the meeting resulted in Mr. Zlotnick feeling that his vote to put 
Ms. Baird upon the Ethics Board may have been incorrect due to the information discussed at that 
meeting.  Mr.  Zlotnick  indicated  that  as  time  has  passed,  that  he  remains  confident  that  he  voted 

Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 3 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 
Opinion of the Board 
Due to the nature of this complaint the Milton Town Ethics Board reached out to the County as well 
as the New York State Association of Towns for consultation. We were advised that a matter such as 
this  would  be  most  appropriately  handled  at  the  town  level  and  that  the  county  did  not  have  a 
mechanism in place in which to conduct an outside review (see Attachment E and F). Based on this 
assessment, the Ethics Board has proceeded with the investigation as noted in this report.  
In relation to §14‐19(B)(6)(i) of the Town of Milton Ethics Code, this section of the Code of Ethics cited 
in the complaint addresses the qualification of Ethics Board Members, and states that “all candidates 
seeking appointment to the Ethics Board… Have no clear and present significant conflicts of interest”. 
It is the opinion of The Ethics Board that this section of the Code as written is directed solely to the 
candidate and does not apply to Members of the Town board. 
Additionally, although it is true the town board members were made aware of Ms. Baird’s alleged 
conflicts of interest, per §14‐19 (3) the appointment of new Ethics Board members rests with the Town 
Board who holds ultimate review and approval responsibilities for new Ethics Board members and can 
accept or reject the advisory opinions of the Ethics Board related to those appointments as it sees fit. 
Per §14‐19(B)(6)(i) ultimate responsibility of an alleged conflict of interest lies with the candidate and 
not the Town Board, therefore no violation exists in relation to Town Board Members Benny Zlotnick, 
John Frolish, Frank Blaisdell and Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander.  
On the subject of conflict of interest, it should be noted that Milton is a small town and that it is quite 
common for personal relationships to develop between those that live here. Interest as defined in the 
Ethics Code in §14‐03 a relationship where one or both parties can benefit financially, materially, or 
monetarily  from  the  current  relationship.  Personal  relationships  that  do  not  involve  interest  or 
working relationships that have concluded do not necessarily constitute an “interest”. On the subject 
of Ms. Baird’s campaign work on behalf of Mr. Frolish, §14‐19(B)(6)(i) of the Town of Milton Ethics 
Code states that “candidates to the Ethics Board … have no clear and present conflicts of interest.” As 
Ms. Baird’s work on Mr. Frolish’s campaign occurred prior to her time on the Ethics Board and there 
is no indication that she currently holds similar positions, the purported violation is not present. The 
investigation into Ms. Bairds work on the Frolish Campaign did not result in any significant evidence 
that led us to the conclusion that Ms. Baird’s appointment was  either reward for her work on the 
campaign or an effort to put an ally of Mr. Frolish on the Ethics Board. Additional to this point, her 
work as an election commissioner in which she worked for and with other town employees and officers 
is also concluded and yielded no evidence that was of concern. Further, Ms. Baird does not appear to 
have  any  current  or  present  relationships  of  interest  with  Mr.  Frolish  or  any  other  employees  or 
officers of the town that have been made apparent at the time of this investigation.  
The Ethics Code is quite clear in its language relative to recusal and abstention in §14‐11 in matters 
where the individual has an “interest in the matter” and if such a situation comes before the Ethics 
Board, it is the responsibility of any of its members to step aside from such an investigation where 
they may have a present conflict of interest. Ms. Baird has done so in this as well as a second matter 
before  the  Ethics  Board.  As  such,  she  has  operated  in  accordance  with  code,  not  violated  it.  Her 

Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 4 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 
relationships  may  force  her  recusal  from  forthcoming  investigations  but  this  in  itself  does  not 
constitute conflict of interest.  
Due to the Ethics Board finding no violations of the Code of Ethics by any of the individuals named in 
the complaint, it should be considered resolved and the investigation completed. 
It is worth mentioning that although there is no violation found as the result of this investigation, that 
civil communication and transparency in action between the Ethics Board and Town Board could have 
likely  have  prevented  this  situation  from  developing  to  the  point  at  which  it  has  resulted  both  in 
relation to this complaint as well as surrounding incidents between the Town Board and the Ethics 
All of the above opinions were reached unanimously. 

Attachment A – Ethics Complaint, Keihm dated April 25, 2018 
Attachment B – Milton Town Ethics Code §14‐19, (B)(6)(i) 
Attachment C – EB_TB correspondence Feb 26 2018 
Attachment D – EB_TB correspondence Jan 24 2018 
Attachment E ‐ County Correspondence_week of 04‐30‐2018 
Attachment F ‐ Correspondence with NYSAOT 
Board Members 
Seth Harkins, Chairman of the Board of Ethics 
Severin Carlson, Ethics Board Member 
Michael Gomula, Ethics Board Member 
Brenda Baird, Ethics Board Member (EXCLUDED) 

Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 5 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 


Filed by Robert Keihm 
April 25, 2018 

Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 6 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 

Town of Milton Code of Ethics  
Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 7 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 
§14-19 Board of Ethics
(b) Qualification of Board members.
(6) All candidates seeking appointment to the Board of Ethics must agree to: 

(i) Have no clear and present significant conflicts of interest. 


Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 8 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 


Correspondence between Ethics Board and Town Board 
January 24, 2018 

Gmail - Re: Town of Milton - Board of Ethics Appointment https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=68e4a0393a&jsver=Mm6w...

Town of Milton Board of Ethics <miltonboardofethics@gmail.com>

Re: Town of Milton - Board of Ethics Appointment

1 message

Town of Milton Board of Ethics <miltonboardofethics@gmail.com> Wed, Jan 24, 2018 at 11:37 AM
To: "James P. Craig" <jpc@browncraighunt.com>
Cc: Scott Ostrander <scott.ostrander12020@gmail.com>, bzlotnick@hotmail.com, grayowlfarm@aol.com,
bkerrtownofmilton@gmail.com, frolishmilton@gmail.com, Shannon Doherty <sdoherty@townofmiltonny.org>


Below is the email that was sent to Ms Baird:

“Ms. Baird,

I want to thank you for your interest in filling a seat on the Ethics Board. After completing our interviews we have
selected another candidate. Again, we thank you for your interest and the time you have taken with us and wish you
the best.

Thank you

Robert Keihm, Chairman

Town of Milton Board of Ethics”

As you can see, nowhere in the message does it indicate that she will not be appointed. That merely indicated that
we, the Board, selected another candidate for recommendation to the Town Board. I admit I should have been more
clear. I also take offense at your insinuation of being vindictive or having an ulterior motive as well as the veiled threat
of removal. I and the entire Board have always and will always place the best interest of the Town above all else
including politics.

The Ethics Board Members saw last evening on the agenda for the January 24, 2018 Town Board meeting, there is a
motion to be made to appoint Brenda Baird to the Ethics Board. Based on our interview with Ms Baird, we did not
find her to be the most qualified candidate for either vacancy on the Ethics Board. Specifically, the Ethics Board, not
just one individual was concerned with Ms Baird’s own admissions that she currently works with a Town Board
member and even worked on his campaign. Ms Baird also disclosed other Town employees that she currently or has
worked with in a political relationship.

Given this information, the Ethics Board, not one individual, believed this presented a potential conflict should an
investigation be conducted into any one of five Officials/employees in which Ms Baird would have to recuse herself.
The Ethics Board needs to be free from actual or the appearance of conflicts and bias. This includes any undue
political pressure. Additionally, if a Board member needs to recuse his/herself in many instances, it renders the
position/appointment ineffective.

The Ethics Board should be free from political influence and it appears certain individuals on the Board seem intent to
appoint an individual who has potential conflict issues with serving. This began back in 2017 when the Ethics Board
was excluded from the interview process, which was never done before. The appointments were placed on the
January 3, 2018 agenda and it wasn’t until I approached Supervisor Ostrander about the issue that the Ethics Board
had not been notified of interested candidates, nor given the opportunity to interview said candidates, that he
acquiesced and provided us with the resumes so we could conduct interviews and make our recommendations. We
went into each interview with an open mind and made our recommendations accordingly. It seems that irregardless of
our recommendations, the Supervisor is intent on appointing whoever he wants without deference to the Ethics
Board’s recommendations. He even sent me an email asking where the written communication was on Ms Baird,
making it appear it was a foregone conclusion that we would recommend her. At no time were we questioned why we
chose our two candidates over another. I and the Ethics Board have nothing at all against Ms Baird personally and

1 of 5 7/28/2018, 9:30 AM
Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 9 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 

Correspondence between Ethics Board and Town Board 
FEBRUARY 26, 2018 
Gmail - Re: Ethics board appointment https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=68e4a0393a&jsver=Mm6w...

Town of Milton Board of Ethics <miltonboardofethics@gmail.com>

Re: Ethics board appointment

1 message

Town of Milton Board of Ethics <miltonboardofethics@gmail.com> Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 4:07 PM
To: Scott Ostrander <scott.ostrander12020@gmail.com>
Cc: grayowlfarm@aol.com, frolishmilton@gmail.com, bzlotnick@hotmail.com, Barbara Kerr


Thanks for the information. I find it very concerning that you and the Board are pushing a candidate that is not
supported by your own Ethics Board based on concerns of possible ethical conflicts with more than one
employee/official. It makes it seem that this is either political payback for someone who assisted on a campaign or
worse, someone who would be an insider.

It is now clear your intent was to bring her back up again when I requested the position be reposted and you declined
to do so and refused to meet with me on the issue.

The Ethics Board should be independent and free from politics and it seems that is not the case here. I urge you and
the Board to reconsider and repost the position for interview for a candidate both the Ethics Board and Town Board
can agree on who does not have obvious conflict issues.



> On Feb 26, 2018, at 3:47 PM, Scott Ostrander <scott.ostrander12020@gmail.com> wrote:
> Rob I received an email from councilman Zlotnick stating that he changed his mind on Brenda Baird after he had a
conversation with her after our last board meeting.So I’m informing you that her appointment was put back on our
agenda for the meeting on Wednesday.I advised you if there was any changes that I would keep you informed.Scott
> Sent from my iPhone

1 of 1 7/28/2018, 9:36 AM
Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 10 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 

County Correspondence 
April 30, 2018 
Seth Harkins

From: Seth <swh2645@gmail.com>

Sent: Monday, May 07, 2018 3:15 PM
To: Seth Harkins
Subject: Fwd: Re: Saratoga County Board of Ethics

Sent via the Samsung Galaxy S® 6, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

-------- Original message --------

From: Stephen Dorsey <sdorsey@saratogacountyny.gov>
Date: 5/4/18 1:51 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: Seth Harkins <swh2645@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Saratoga County Board of Ethics

Mr. Harkins,  
I can confirm that you were in contact with my and I advised you to contact the NYS Association of Towns.  
The County has no authority to hear Town‐level ethics complaints. Town ethics complaints should be handled 
at the Town level. 
I have no objection to you including the above in any report you prepare relative to your investigation. 

Stephen M. Dorsey, Esq. 

Saratoga County Attorney 

President, County Attorneys' Association of 

    the State of New York 

40 McMaster Street 

Ballston Spa, New York, 12020 

Phone: (518) 884‐4770 

Fax:  (518) 884‐4720 

Email: sdorsey@saratogacountyny.gov 
From: Seth Harkins <swh2645@gmail.com> 
Sent: Friday, May 4, 2018 11:45:39 AM 
To: Stephen Dorsey 
Subject: Saratoga County Board of Ethics

Mr. Dorsey,
I am Chairman of the Town of Milton Ethics Board. I was in touch with you via phone recently about a
complaint filed against one of my ethics board members and several town board members. You advised me to
contact the NYS Assoc. of Towns. I spoke to Katie Hodgedin, an attorney at their office. Thank you for that

She advised me that she sees no reason that the Milton Ethics Board cannot investigate this matter as long as
such an investigation is done in good faith and by the rules set forth in the ethics code. I am willing to proceed
as such though hesitantly. I would like to confirm via this email two things:

(A) that I plan to mention in my concluding report on this investigation that I was in touch with you as well as
Ms. Hodgedin on the matter prior to conducting the investigation.

(B) that Saratoga County does not have a county level mechanism to review Ethics Complaints, therefore this
should be handled at the town level Ethics Board contrary to section 42-7 of the Saratoga County Code of
Ethics which states that there is a 5 member county board of Ethics.

I appreciate your time and reply.

Thank you,
Seth Harkins
Chairman, Town of Milton Board of Ethics
518-638-8000 x221 (M-F, 9am - 5pm)
518-810-6387 (c)
ATTENTION: This email came from an external source. Do not open
attachments or click on links from unknown senders or unexpected emails.

Town of Milton – Board of Ethics  Page 11 
Investigation and Opinion ‐ 2018‐002  October 24, 2018 

Correspondence with New York State Association of Towns 
June 14, 2018 

Gmail - Fwd: Follow-up to phone call - Milton NY Ethics Board https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=ec0a1e9e76&jsver=Mm6w...

Seth Harkins <swh2645@gmail.com>

Fwd: Follow-up to phone call - Milton NY Ethics Board

1 message

Town of Milton Board of Ethics <miltonboardofethics@gmail.com> Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 4:39 PM
To: Seth Harkins <swh2645@gmail.com>

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Lori Mithen-Demasi <lmithen-demasi@nytowns.org>
Date: Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 4:09 PM
Subject: RE: Follow-up to phone call - Milton NY Ethics Board
To: Town of Milton Board of Ethics <miltonboardofethics@gmail.com>

Dear Chair Harkins,

As we discussed, ar cle 18 of the General Municipal Law limits the authority of a town ethics board to addressing inquiries from
town officers and employees about his or her own ethical conduct. (General Municipal Law,  §808). The Town of Milton ethics
board has been given addi onal du es in the Town of Milton ethics code. I noted during our discussion that the plain language of
the town’s code appears to indicate that the candidate for appointment bears the responsibility to ensure that he or she does
not have a prohibited conflict of interest but that it could be interpreted differently by another party. I did not have any guidance
to offer regarding the interpreta on of this provision other than the plain reading of the provision because it is a local code
provision and you should therefore look to the local code, local rules and prior prac ce regarding the role and authority of the
ethics board.  

Whether or not the town ethics board has been given the authority to inves gate members of the town board is also outside the
state statutory framework and is likewise a ma er of interpreta on of the town’s local code of ethics.

I hope this informa on is helpful to you. If we can be of assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to call or write.


Lori Mithen‐DeMasi


Associa on of Towns of the State of New York

150 State Street - Albany NY 12207

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Gmail - Fwd: Follow-up to phone call - Milton NY Ethics Board https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=ec0a1e9e76&jsver=Mm6w...

Phone: (518) 465‐7933

Fax: (518) 465‐0724

Email: lmithen@nytowns.org

Be sure to follow us on Twi er! Follow @nytowns for all the latest informa on from the Associa on of Towns.

Please be advised that the informa on in this e‐mail is provided for informa onal purposes only.  Neither this

communica on, nor any other communica on with the Associa on of Towns of the State of New York (AOTSNY),
creates an a orney‐client rela onship between AOTSNY or its a orneys and you or your town or any third party. 
Once received by a town official, this communica on may be considered a record for purposes of the State MU1
record reten on schedule and the Freedom of Informa on Law.  We recommend that local counsel be consulted
to address the par cular needs of your town.   

From: Town of Milton Board of Ethics <miltonboardofethics@gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2018 2:22 PM
To: Lori Mithen‐Demasi <lmithen-demasi@nytowns.org>
Subject: Follow‐up to phone call ‐ Milton NY Ethics Board

Ms. Mithen,

Thank you for speaking to me about one of our current investigations.

As we spoke about, the board of ethics has received a complaint filed against one of our members as well as four
members of our town board. The complainant cites 14-19-b-6-i which states, " All candidates seeking appointment to
the Board of Ethics must agree to: Have no clear and present significant conflicts of interest."

I believe my board can and will investigate this violation in reference to our fellow board member. I asked if this
section of code could be used against the town board members (that voted for her admittance to the ethics board) as
its language seems solely directed at the member of the ethics board.

You stated that this is section of our town's code is additional to what is written in the state code and that this
additional language should be interpreted based on our local standards and our writing of these additional sections.
You were not aware of any reason why the ethics board could choose to investigate or not the allegations against the
town board members specifically as long as we followed the rules of our own code and investigative process.

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We discussed further the nature of the complaint and the role of the town board in the nomination and approval of
members of the ethics board. Specifically that the town board is the approving authority for ethics board members,
that the ethics board interviews all candidates and submits recommendations to the town board relative to your
suitability for the ethics board. The town board has the right to accept those recommendations or not via its super-
majority vote to admit new ethics board members.

Please respond to this email so I may know that it was received. I do intend to use this correspondence within my
report on this investigation in order to add to our findings and serve as a record of my board's communications relative
to this investigation. Toward that end, feel free to add or alter any of my notes as you feel appropriate.

Thank you for your time.


Seth Harkins

Chairman, Town of Milton Ethics Board.

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