QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – If someone sees something financially questionable in Warren County, now they have somewhere to report it to. This week, the members of the county’s newly-reformed ethics board were appointed to make sure nothing gets missed – accidentally, or even intentionally.
That open door is something that residents of Glens Falls, Queensbury, Lake George and the rest of the county have never had access to before now. County Chairwoman Rachel Seeber says that was a mistake.
“There was never an opportunity to say, ‘Yes, I believe one someone in government or one of my elected officials has acted inappropriately and violated our ethics code,” she said on Thursday.
The county ethics board is being effectively revived, with new appointees from the community announced just this week. They include Connie Bosse and Martin Deslauriers as main and alternate public designees; Probation Director Robert Iusi and Assistant Public Defender Brian Pilatzke, Esq. as county officer representatives; and Warrensburg school board member Ash Anand and Glens Falls common council member Diana Palmer as elected town officer representatives.
Seeber pointed out that acting inappropriately doesn’t cover everything that one might think when they hear the phrase. The county’s ethics code was formed in the 1990s via state mandate, and revolves centrally around how money in the county is spent.
That means keeping an eye on how county employees are spending money, and what people of interest are involved. That can include cases where partners, relatives or other close associates of those government leaders are involved in businesses with over 50% ownership.
If that still sounds broad, that’s okay. Seeber has plenty of specific examples.
“We have an ethics rule where we can’t accept anything more than $75 as a gift,” she said. “If someone’s accepting a larger gift – if someone is acting unethically as it relates to their financial or material benefit – that’s where these rules come in.”
An ethics board was formed in Warren County when the laws were put in place in the 1990s, but Seeber feels that from the get-go, proper importance wasn’t put on their role. The community didn’t really know about it, and only county employees could file a complaint. That puts serious limits on who could actually report wrongdoing.
“In the past, I can tell you we’ve had many instances where someone has wanted to file a complaint and been told, ‘No, you can’t.’ And I know you probably hear that and think, how fair is that? We work for the people.”
Once a complaint is brought to the board of ethics, board members can launch an investigation into it. They can also provide training resources where they fit the bill, something Seeber feels is another big step. The county has never required ethics training for its 800+ employees until now.
Board members can also amend the code of ethics itself, when a situation reveals a flaw within it. Members are voluntary, unpaid for their time.