Ethics complaints filed against 2 Watertown City Council members

Sarah Compo Pierce and Cliff Olney
Sarah Compo Pierce and Cliff Olney(WWNY)
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 3:47 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Two ethics complaints have been filed against two different Watertown City Council members.

The first is against Cliff Olney for his involvement in finding a formerly homeless woman, Tammy Higby, an apartment.

Higby said in a Facebook video post that the conditions of her housing included doing updates with Olney live on Facebook and attending city council meetings.

At least one resident wrote to city hall and said this calls into question Olney’s ethics.

7 News obtained the complaint through a Freedom of Information Law request filed on April 28.

Olney said he didn’t know about an ethics complaint until we first asked him about it on May 1.

He said wanted us to have it because he also wanted to know what the complaint was about.

Now, Olney is asking for an internal investigation to find out how 7 News found out about the complaint before he did.

We don’t know who filed the ethics complaint against Olney.

The other ethics complaint was filed by developer P.J. Simao against council member Sarah Compo Pierce.

Simao is taking issue with Compo Pierce’s public comments at the last city council meeting where she questioned if it was extortion after Olney outlined his involvement with the $3.4 million deal to buy the Watertown Golf Club and keep himself and the city out of future litigation.

Simao sent the following message to City Manager Ken Mix:

“I would like to file a complaint with the Ethics Board to investigate the serious, irresponsible, false and defamatory statements made by Councilwoman Ms. Compo-Pierce. The outrageous public insinuation that I was somehow involved in ‘extortion’ as it pertains to the City’s recent acquisition of the golf course in Thompson Park is a pathetic display of how incompetent and out of touch Ms. Compo-Pierce is with reality and the extremes she will go to for media attention. Ms. Compo-Pierce’s reckless behavior must be thoroughly and fairly investigated by the Ethics Board. Ms. Compo-Pierce’s disgraceful accusation has no basis in fact and is patently false. In my opinion Ms. Compo-Pierce is abusing her duties as a City Councilwoman for political and personal reasons with complete disregard of the truth and the best interests of the City.”

As for Compo Pierce, she says:

“In my opinion, this is an attempt to bully me into being quiet about a deal that benefited two developers and took advantage of taxpayers. From grossly overpaying for the property to not having an inspection or appraisal before the purchase was finalized, this deal was wrong on many levels. I will not be intimidated into being quiet and will continue to ask the questions that the public is still seeking answers to.”