Will former town official’s link to CAT impact ethics ruling on Giglio?

07/19/2018 6:00 AM |

The Riverhead Town ethics board may be facing additional work as it continues to weigh a complaint made against Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

John McAuliff, a spokesman for the Coalition Against EPCAL Housing — which filed an ethics complaint against Ms. Giglio in April — says that group now plans to ask the ethics board to look into potential conflicts involving former town community development agency director Christine Kempner. She joined Ms. Giglio to meet privately with members of Triple Five Group on March 12 to discuss the proposed sale of town land at Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Ms. Kempner also worked as a broker on Triple Five’s bankruptcy sale acquisition of Dowling College’s Brookhaven campus, according to a bankruptcy court document.

“We are going to add to the complaint [against Ms. Giglio],” Mr. McAuliff said. “I don’t know if, technically, it’s in addition to the complaint, or just a letter saying ‘hope you’re aware of this information and take it into consideration.’ ”

Town officials say they weren’t aware of Ms. Kempner’s involvement in the Dowling purchase until they read about it on RiverheadLOCAL Friday. 

“Triple Five Aviation Industries LLC contacted us through their broker, Christine Kempner of Whale Rock Realty, on Jan. 25,” a bankruptcy court document reads. 

“These are definitely issues for our ethics board to wrestle with,” said Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. She said the ethics board has been asked to weigh in on these situations, which she considers new information.

Ms. Kempner, who resigned from a position with Brookhaven Town last week, said she has no conflict of interest in Riverhead Town. 

The town’s “revolving door” law prohibits former employees from appearing before their former town agency for six months. She said she left the town in May 2017. 

She said she first talked to Triple Five on Dec. 26, 2017, in a phone call.

“They were asking me about Calverton, and I told them I thought the highest and best use of the property was aeronautics and high tech,” she said

She said she had even draw up a plan for an advanced technology hub at the property.

Ms. Kempner said the Dowling property was an open listed sale, in which she would get a commission from the seller, not Triple Five, because she introduced them to the property.

“It’s a public bankruptcy auction, and I used all the forms approved by the court,” she said. “Nothing was done behind closed doors.”

The only bankruptcy court document that mentions her was filed May 31. 

“There’s a couple of issues here,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “She stands to make quite a commission on this deal and she attended the meeting in the city with Jodi. Did she disclose that to Jodi, that she stood to make some money on this commission? Or did she not tell Jodi and Triple Five felt very comfortable going into this meeting knowing that they were there with someone who was in business with them, and not disclosing it to Jodi?”

Ms. Giglio said in an interview Tuesday that she was not aware that Ms. Kempner was a broker in a deal involving Triple Five. 

Ms. Jens-Smith said she asked Stuart Bienenstock of Triple Five at a public work session on April 5 if they were in business with Ms. Kempner, and he said no. 

Mr. Bienenstock said in an interview Tuesday that he did not disclose the relationship with Ms. Kempner because there was a non-disclosure agreement in place.

“This deal with EPCAL is based very much on the town having trust with this company,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “Yet even with the small things, when they are asked, they are not being truthful with us.”

Mr. McAuliff added: “It starts with us learning only about Jodi’s private meeting, and then later on, we find out that Chris Kempner was with her as a friend and a lawyer. Now we discover this other potential role that she has.”

Ms. Jens-Smith believes there are other potential conflicts involving Ms. Kempner, such as having Town Hall listed as the mailing address for her real estate company and the fact that she was chair of the Community Development Agency at the time the agreement of sale with Luminati Aerospace was signed by former supervisor Sean Walter in March 2017. 

Luminati now owns a 25 percent interest in Calverton Aviation & Technology; Triple Five owns the rest. CAT is the entity seeking to buy the EPCAL property, although Triple Five says Luminati has no voting power in CAT.

“As CDA director, she was the manager of the EPCAL property,” the supervisor said. “ She has knowledge of the deal and knowledge of everything. What information was shared with Triple Five that was confidential versus not confidential? We don’t know.”

Ms. Kempner said the mailing address was just an oversight and is not criminal. As for being CDA director in March 2017, she said she hasn’t been employed in that position for almost 14 months.

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Photo caption: Former town community development agency director Christine Kempner. (Riverhead News-Review file photo) 

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