He didn't say who advised him, but according to the Association of Towns:
Unlike codes of ethics which are required by State law, local governments are authorized but not required to establish boards of ethics.Under General Municipal Law, if a county has established a board of ethics, and a municipality within the county has not, the county’s board may act in relation to the officers and employees of the municipality. It has been some time since the town last had an Ethics Board instead, according to the Organizational Minutes of each year, choosing to refer all complaints received to the County Ethics Board.
That was until a January 2012 referral made by the town to the county was returned back to the town without an investigation based on the fact that, or so we were told, it appeared to be an attempt to use the County Ethics Board for a "politically motivated" purpose. Supervisor Tyksinski even said during a December 2012 meeting when he first mentioned the need to reinstate the ethics board that it was because of a referral sent to the County a year ago that was sent back to the town. Mind you...the "supposed" violation was over a year ago!!
The Ethics Board is supposed to be an independent board. However, there were no letters of interest or resumes, just nominations made by elected officials. No conflicts there...aye?
At any rate, the town board went along with Supervisor Tyksinski; next step was to name people to fill the vacancies. It was at first thought that town code allowed for three appointments, so at the town board meeting on January 9, 2013 three (3) of the town board members each named an individual to fill the vacancies.
However, after a check of the town code by the town attorney, only two (2) people were chosen plus Councilman Woodland. The town code actually says:
There is hereby established a Board of Ethics consisting of three members to be appointed by the Town Board, all of whom shall reside in the Town of New Hartford and who shall serve without compensation and at the pleasure of the Town Board of the Town of New Hartford. A majority of such members shall be persons other than town employees but the members shall include at least one member who is an elected or appointed town employee of the Town of New Hartford.Councilman Backman chose former town supervisor Ralph Humphreys; Councilman Reynolds chose David Corr; and Councilman Miscione...well he nominated someone but his nomination never got to a vote.
Let's back track a little...
In March 2010, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit titled Ethics Oversight in New York State Municipalities. That report showed that gaps exist in local officials’ awareness of and compliance with the provisions of their municipalities’ codes of ethics.
Regarding ethics boards, the report found that:
"We found that five of the 20 had not convened for periods ranging from two to 11 years. In one county, the board of ethics never convened. In one city, an ethics board member told us he has never met the other ethics board members and has not been asked to attend an ethics board meeting."In December 2011, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters to the state's 932 towns asking them to send copies of their ethics codes.
In a letter dated January 31, 2012, Supervisor Tyksinsksi wrote to the Attorney General:
"In response to your request, I have attached a copy of the "Code of Ethics" which was adopted by the New Hartford Town Board on 6/17/1990."
To view in larger print, click on image!
Obviously, when that letter was typed someone was having a "fat finger" day because it is clear as day that the New Hartford Town Board adopted the current Code of Ethics on June 17, 1970...not 1990.
According to Harris Beach PLLC:
Municipal ethics codes are required for all counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, and fire districts under section 806 of the General Municipal Law. Whether or not a municipality has established an ethics code, however, is only the first question to be asked related to adequate ethics oversight at the municipal level. A host of issues that have evolved in the area since the 1970s should be addressed in a local code of ethics, including but not limited to, conflicts of interest, financial disclosure, gifts, recusal and disclosure standards, nepotism, etc. In terms of structure, local governments need to determine whether their ethics boards will be advisory, investigatory or created to act in both capacities.Odd that the aforementioned law firm writes that there are issues that have evolved since the 1970s that should be addressed by the code of ethics...New Hartford's code was adopted in 1970 and has never been updated.
The exposure for local governments often manifests itself when an ethics issue develops and the municipality looks to its ethics board for resolution only to find that it has not met in many years, the board has an inordinate number of vacancies, and its code is hopelessly dated, thus creating a difficult problem for public officials and risking a loss of confidence in the government by local constituents.
Exposure?? This paragraph could have been written for the Town of New Hartford Ethics Board...hasn't met in many years and its code is hopelessly dated. Again from the Harris Beach PLLC website:
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.So, the town hasn't had an ethics board in many years, an ethics complaint was sent to the county over a year ago and was quickly returned because it smelled of political retaliation...and suddenly the town board, or should we say the town supervisor decides to reinvigorate an ethics board using 1970 town code.
We can't help but wonder...does the Town of New Hartford really feel that they can defend their ethics code and procedures particularly considering that they have already made one major blunder?
To be continued...