By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Taking into account prior public comment, the revised draft of Sullivan County’s Code of Ethics is now available for review.
A public hearing will be held on the draft this Thursday, January 19, at 1 p.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.
Retired judges Anthony Kane and Burton Ledina, retired cop John Konefal and the county’s current human resources/real property tax director, Lynda Levine, have spent several months changing the existing code, which dates back to 1998.
Revisions were already evident when the first public hearing was held in November. Now, the committee is asking the public to weigh in on subsequent changes, with the expectation that the new County Legislature will vote the code into law this year.
• Prohibiting activities like bidding on or purchasing properties involved in county tax foreclosures (including through relatives and third parties), and soliciting, negotiating, promising or engaging in private employment when it creates a conflict “or impairs the proper discharge of official duties.”
• Banning the solicitation or acceptance of gifts of any kind “under circumstances in which it reasonably could be perceived to influence the performance of official duties or was intended as a reward for any official action.” (The original allowance for up to $75 in gifts per year remains, however.)
• Requiring elected officials to not use their positions to benefit a person or entity from whom they’ve received election campaign contributions totalling more than $250 in the past five years.
• Adding a specific fine of $10,000 per violation of the code and/or a reprimand, suspension or removal from office/employment.
• Requiring the chair of the Legislaturerather than the 1998 code’s stipulation of the county managerto ensure distribution of the code.
• Solely vesting the Legislature with the power to appoint the five-member Board of Ethics (rather than the county manager, with Legislature confirmation).
• Limiting Board of Ethics members’ terms to three years instead of four.
• Eliminating the Legislature’s Ethics Subcommittee (three legislators who, under the 1998 code, can first determine whether to pass a complaint on to the Board of Ethics), except to be convened when the Board of Ethics itself is under investigation.
• Adding clearer, more detailed definitions for words such as “agency,” “county official,” “dependent,” and “legislation.”
The draft Code also clarifies what information can be considered confidential and recommends that legislators be allowed to abstain from votes without the abstention automatically being counted as a “yes.”
For the complete draft code, contact the Legislature’s office at 807-0435 or log on to the county’s website: www.co.sullivan.