Public disapproval is not sufficient punishment for a public official accused of malfeasance. Neither is a strongly worded letter, ethics therapy or bad press.
So Malta Town Clerk Flo Sickels essentially was let off the hook by a friendly Town Board (whose fellow Republican members include her daughter) for using her personal authority and the power of her office to campaign for re-election.
Sickels was accused last year of having a town employee work for the Malta Republican Committee on taxpayers' time and soliciting help for Sickels' re-election campaign from town employees. That help included having a town employee type the minutes of a GOP meeting, delegating a town employee to go door-to-door campaigning for her re-election bid, and having the deputy clerk send out campaign letters on her behalf. Some employees who didn't play along said they felt they were victims of retaliation.
Sickels' so-called punishment — which she didn't even show up Monday to accept — was a letter from the board and a requirement she obtain some kind of ethics training. No request to resign. No request that she apologize to town residents and the employees she bullied into doing her bidding. No requirement of repayment to town taxpayers for the stolen work hours. A letter will be tossed aside. And a person who has been in political office for 22 years will get nothing new out of an ethics course except a certificate of participation.
So how is any of this going to discourage her or anyone else from committing the same kinds of infractions, if the ultimate outcome is that violators with the right political connections keep their jobs with no consequences? It won't.
All along, it was clear the Town Board's intent was to do the bare minimum to make this incident go away. But it did nothing to keep the problem from happening again.