Correction 2:10 p.m. — This article initially incorrectly stated the amount and breakdown of the chief of staff’s pay. It has been corrected.

ITHACA, N.Y. – Common Council members unanimously voted to approve the appointment of Dan Cogan as Ithaca’s new chief of staff.

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Cogan served on Ithaca’s Common Council representing the Fifth Ward from 2002 through 2011, and as Acting Mayor from 2006-2010 under former Mayor Carolyn K. Peterson. He is also a part-owner of  Taitem Engineering.

Dozens of people applied for the job and about six people were interviewed for the position. The pay, which could have varied, will be $96,000 a year, plus $52,800 worth of insurance and benefits for Cogan.

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Dan Cogan (Provided image)

Mayor Svante Myrick said, “Dan rose to the very top for several reasons. I mean, his knowledge of the area: he’s lived here for more than 25 years. His experience with local government…serving in the city council and serving with such distinction and for such a long time – 10 years – is quite a haul.”

Myrick went on to say that Cogan has shown his ability to handle long-term, complex projects while working at Taitem Engineering.

Some concerns were raised at the meeting about whether Cogan’s partial ownership of the engineering company would be a conflict of interest or impact the City’s dealings with Taitem.

First Ward alderperson George McGonigal asked, “Does this affect the ability of the city to work with Taitem Engineering?”

Myrick said Cogan would be expected to recuse himself from discussion about potential conflicts of interest, and City Attorney Ari Lavine would in many cases ensure that conflicts did not happen.

“We would have to isolate the chief of staff out of that process,” he said.

First Ward alderperson Cynthia Brock, “And that is true for the development of projects? There is a bit of insider information when you know something is coming up…and you happen to be part owner of a company that could benefit from that information.”

Lavine said, yes, that Cogan would be expected to maintain confidentiality on behalf of the city.

“At this point I’m going to retain an ownership stake and just be very careful to avoid any appearance of a conflict,” Cogan said. “I did that when I was on council as well, and I had a similar relationship, although I wasn’t at that point a shareholder.”

Myrick said he feels confident that Cogan will both save and make the city more money than is currently being done by ensuring communication and cooperation between departments in the city.

“We would continue to track the same process we use to track all of our potential conflicts of interest. Ari and his office have done a good job at staying on top of the issue,” he said.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.