A Hamburg woman has filed a complaint about Councilman Joseph A. Collins with the town Ethics Board.
Elizabeth G. Reszka accused Collins of threatening her during a Town Board meeting Oct. 8 in an attempt to pressure her husband, Peter R. Reszka, who is chairman of the town Planning Board.
“He threatened both my husband and myself with a retaliatory FOIL,” she said in her complaint, referring to a request for information under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
Requests for town documents are submitted to the Town Clerk’s Office, but documents of private citizens are not subject to the law. Elizabeth Reszka said that she told this to Collins after the meeting and that he said he wanted a copy of the letter she read at a Planning Board meeting.
At the Town Board meeting Oct. 8, Peter Reszka told Collins he wanted to see the research on enterprise funds he mentioned at a previous board meeting, and he accused Collins of making it up. It was after that statement that Collins talked about the Freedom of Information request.
“His threat is not a result of ignorance but an obvious attempt to intimidate me personally and my husband through me,” Elizabeth Reszka’s complaint said.
This is not the first time Collins has been the subject of an ethics complaint. The Town Board, in a 3-2 party-line vote Dec. 13, 2010, found him guilty of ethics charges and of harassing an employee, and censured him.
The ethics charges alleged that he:
• Posted a flier in the Highway Department for his brother’s law firm that advertised testing for mesothelioma.
• Suggested to a resident that to get action on an unsafe building, he should file a notice of defect with the town.
•Assisted an employee in filing a human rights claim against the town.
Collins denied the charges.
According to Elizabeth Reszka, Collins threatened her and her husband with legal action and said she should not have spoken out at a Planning Board hearing on a proposal from a Milestrip Road firm to build a storage area and driveway. The Reszkas live near the business.
“He’s telling me I can’t exercise my civil rights,” she said.
Collins said he was not threatening her but did not feel she should have spoken out at the hearing, because her husband is Planning Board chairman. Peter Reszka did publicly disclose that he lives near the project area and that it would affect him, but that he has no financial interest in the project and therefore there is no conflict of interest.
Reszka should have recused himself, Collins said. “It was more about ‘How do you not have a conflict when your wife comes in front of you and reads a seven-page letter?’ ” he said.
Collins said he talked about requesting the statement through FOIL before he realized that the statement was included in minutes from the Planning Board hearing Aug. 15.