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Rotterdam adopts revised ethics law

Rotterdam adopts revised ethics law

Five member ethics board will be replaced by a three-member board
Rotterdam adopts revised ethics law
Rotterdam Supervisor Steve Tommasone begins to lay a wreath at a Memorial Day event in 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

ROTTERDAM -- The Town Board this week unanimously adopted a new town ethics law, one that follows a model ordinance recommended by the state Department of State.

The law, which takes effect April 1, replaces what's currently on the books. It includes provisions prohibiting conflicts of interest, private employment that conflicts with official duties, inappropriate use of municipal resources, nepotism, bosses requiring political contributions from employees, soliciting gifts or accepting gifts worth more than $75.

The ethics system will be overseen by a three-member board of ethics appointed by the Town Board, one member of which will be a town officer or employee. Employees who violate the code could be censured, fined, suspended or even terminated.

Town officials said the repeal of the previous code and adoption of the new code was driven by a desire for consistency with state guidelines.

"What we intend to do here is bring the town ethics code up to state standards," Town Supervisor Steven A. Tommasone said at a public hearing last month. "There is no ulterior motive here."

But resident Robert Godlewski, a former Town Board member, said the proposal from the state is weaker than the previous town law. He specifically cited the section about the ethics board being appointed by the Town Board.

"This is the fox guarding the hen house," he said at a Feb. 13 public hearing and in a letter to The Daily Gazette.

The current law, created in 2002 in response to charges of ethical behavior and conflicts of interest among town employees, provides for a five-member Board of Ethics appointed by the Town Board, but with no members being town employees. The current law also focuses primarily on financial disclosures, along with conflicts of interest.

"What we're trying to do is enforce a better ethics code for the town and for our employees," Tommasone responded to Godlewski.



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