CHEEKTOWAGA – The Town of Cheektowaga Board of Ethics delivered their revamped ethics law to the town board a few weeks after they were blindsided by the submission of a new law created without their consultation.
The town board’s proposed law would repeal and replace Chapter 18 of the Town Law – a 30-plus-year-old law which currently lays out ethical conduct for public officers and employees of the town. That law was being worked on by the town’s legal department even though the ethics board informed the town board that a new law was in the works.
“This Board of Ethics thinks its a profound disservice for the people of this town to basically take a year’s work of refinement and effort by your own Board of Ethics – who are experts in this field; among us 35-years of ethics expertise and experience – and to throw that in the trash to adopt, who knows what, this [law] hasn’t even had any involvement or assistance whatsoever,” said Board of Ethics Chairperson Joe Treanor on December 11th.
Members of the Board of Ethics tells Cheektowaga Chronicle the law they would like to see codified into the town code goes much further than what was proposed by the town.
“[Their’s] was already inclusive to what we were working on, to begin with,” said Board of Ethics member Brandon Schulz-Koller. “[Ours] builds in a lot more parameters and more visibility of the Board of Ethics for the town to make the town’s people aware of where to go with ethical concerns and how that functions. It also holds all employees of the town to ethical standards which the other one did not.”
Under the town’s proposed and current law, the town board, by resolution establishes who must file an ethical disclosure form with the Board of Ethics. Cheektowaga Chronicle is told that many employees who should file a disclosure form are exempt because the supervisor and the town board did not want to upset the town’s union membership – many of whom are democratic committeemen and their support is needed during election time.
The proposed law from the board of ethics takes power away from the town board and mandates that every employee must file a disclosure – most everyone would file a simple one-page form, while superiors and elected officials would file a more in-depth multipage form.
The town board said on December 11th that they were open to reviewing any language the board of ethics would propose. This came minutes after the supervisor chastised the board during a public hearing.
“That is not your job,” Ms. Benczkowski said to Mr. Treanor. “It’s the town board’s job. You had given us some suggestions. You wanted to know who was supposed to file the financial statements – that’s all in the new code.”
Board of Ethics member Greg Collins says communications between the town board and the supervisor’s office could be better.
“We would like to see improved communications with the town board, and comments like ‘we don’t need a board of ethics’ doesn’t move the needle in that direction, but I think we established a stake in a ground that is worthy of everybody noticing it and cooperating together in a more beneficial way,” Mr. Collins said.
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