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Monday, December 26, 2011

1970...

• Paul McCartney announces that the Beatles have disbanded

• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) begins operation

• Boeing 747 makes its first commercial passenger trip to London

• Dow Jones drops to 631

• 1970 - American Top 40, hosted by radio personality Casey Kasem, becomes the first successful nationally syndicated radio program featuring a weekly countdown

• The floppy disc appeared in 1970, and the next year Intel introduced the microprocessor, the "computer on a chip."

• Atari produced the first low-priced integrated circuit TV games, and the videocassette recorder (VCR) changed home entertainment forever.

• US lowers voting age from 21 to 18

• In 1970 the average income per year was $9,350.00 and by 1979 was $17,550.00

• In 1970 a gallon of gas was 36 cents and by 1979 was 86 cents

• The 70's also saw the beginning of the Home Computer due to Intel creating the first cheap microprocessor - the Intel 4004, and other integrated circuits. In the beginning the computers were mainly for the hobbyists and included the Apple II, the TRS-80, the Commodore PET, and Atari 400/800 and with the growth of these home computers Bulletin Boards became a popular way for people to find others with similar interests.

AND, on June 17, 1970, the Town of New Hartford adopted their Code of Ethics. More than forty (40) years later, it remains the same, never updated or amended to reflect today's world. Pretty sad...

According to today's Observer Dispatch editorial, Town Clerk Gail Wolanin Young said:
...New Hartford’s policy has been in place for a number of years, but she could not find it on the town website.
We found the policy online; there is a link to it from the town's website, but you have to know where to look. Amazing that the town clerk wasn't able to direct the Observer Dispatch to the link for access to town codes on the web; as town clerk, she is the "keeper" of the town codes.

However, the truth is, even if you knew where to find the Town of New Hartford Ethics Code, and you had concerns of a possible ethics violation, you would still need to figure out who to contact with your concerns. We tried to track that person down during the previous administration...here is what we found.

The first town board meeting of the year is an organizational meeting. During that meeting one of the resolutions that is passed is regarding the Ethics Board. The resolution is usually:
Ethics Committee
Presently, the Ethics Committee has one member, that being Councilman Woodland; two (2) positions are vacant and in the past the Town Board’s consensus was, in the event a situation arises, that the Town would use the County Ethics Committee.
Since town board minutes indicate that the County would be the place to voice our concerns, we headed down to the County Office Building. When we told the County's legal department that according to town board minutes, the County would take care of any ethics "situation" in the Town of New Hartford in lieu of the town having their own Ethics Committee, they said "News to us!"

So what do you do if you live in the Town of New Hartford and you feel there has been an ethics violation? We never did find out; although we have brought the subject to the town board more than once. Apparently, town officials prefer to be the lone fox guarding the hen house; they don't want to be bothered with resident complaints of possible ethics violation[s].

The town is allowed by law to use the County Ethics Committee; however, there should first be a mutual agreement between the town and county so that town residents have the ability to seek resolution to possible ethics violations of town officials. Instead, it appears to be yet another way to put up roadblocks and thus keep town residents from being able to seek resolution to allegations of possible official misconduct.

According to recent news articles, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office is requesting that town officials provide copies of their local code of ethics within 60 to 90 days. We are hopeful that, for New Hartford, it will mean updating their archaic Code of Ethics policy.

The Town of Whitestown updated their code in September 2007 to include an Ethics Board with town residents serving on the board.

The Town of New Hartford needs to follow suit. Update the Town of New Hartford Ethic Code and appoint interested town residents to serve on the board so that everyone has a place to go the next time an "issue arises".

According to the website of Harris Beach, PLLC, Attorneys At Law:
If the Comptroller’s March 2010 report is any indication of the upcoming review of municipal ethics codes, simply having an ethics code is not enough. Issues previously reviewed by the Comptroller that may be visited again include: the extent of issues addressed by an ethics code, the distribution and employees’ awareness of the code, whether ethics training is provided, the ability of municipal officials to understand and apply the code, how often the code is reviewed and updated, and the collection and review of financial disclosure forms.

In short, local governments should be prepared to either defend the sufficiency of their current ethics code and procedures, or proactively begin the process of reviewing their current code and procedures, and making the appropriate changes. Moreover, it is equally important that a municipality or board of ethics takes appropriate action when a complaint is made.
The Town of New Hartford would have a difficult time defending the sufficiency of their Ethics Code. Even if the town board decides to use the County Ethics Commission; at the very least, the town ethics code needs to be updated so that some of the "grey areas" in the present town code are eliminated to include how to register a complaint and with whom to register that complaint.

Here is a model code from the Office of the State Comptroller dated March 3, 2010.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you telling us that the town clerk could not find her copy of the town ethics policy and that the town board has not updated their ethics policy for nearly 40 years?