Erie County Updates Its Code of Ethics to be More Transparent

 

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Last week, the Erie County Legislature approved an updated Code of Ethics.

“The idea was to create a Code of Ethics that was easier to understand and would give more definitive answers to officials,” County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

Some of the highlights of the new law include:

  • Making it illegal to be a director of an organization that receives county support for at least 10% of its expenses
  • Require elected officials to disclose clients who have business before any county department
  • Retain provisions making the law applicable to candidates for elected county office and political party leaders
  • Require elected officials to separately disclose a list of all close relatives employed by any government agency

The new code forbids county officials and employees from accepting “any gift having a nominal value.” While the law outlines a long list of things that this provision covers, it does not define “nominal.”

In Reclaim’s ethics recommendations, we recommend the board of ethics set a dollar amount to clarify the value of the gift. Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay both set this at $75.

It’s encouraging to see Erie County strength its Code of Ethics in an effort to hold elected officials and public employees accountable.

Other municipalities across the state should take the time to examine their current code of ethics and disclosure rules and ensure that they are up-to-date and easily accessible.