Malta ethics panel rebukes supervisor

In essence, the supervisor's actions weren't violations because other board members had engaged in similar behavior in the past. In addition, the committee found that the town's personnel manual, specifically section HH, "Political Activity in the Workplace," was ambiguous as to whether it applied to elected officials or not, and suggested the manual be revised.

Ann Klotz, one of seven who registered complaints over the supervisor's letter, expressed the need for a "common policy, so you don't have to decide who's an employee and who's an elected official."

The ethics code itself was also found to be flawed.

Christine Carsky, who served as legal counsel for the ethics committee, explained "it was of great note and significant concern to the ethics committee that the town board must refer ethics violations."

The committee's report suggests that the town revise the ethics code to allow a mechanism for reporting violations to the ethics committee independent of the town board.

The Town Board voted to move ahead on such revisions, but did not accept the findings of the ethics committee. Only one member of the then-four-person board, Councilwoman Tara Thomas, moved to accept the reports, but her motion was not met with a second.

"I don't think the ethics committee grasped the problem here," said Councilwoman Sue Nolen. "Our supervisor thinks he can do whatever he wants, and he goes ahead and does it. I do not accept their findings."

Councilman Peter Klotz suggested that the town should thank the seven-member ethics committee for its time and work, and then moved to go forward with revisions. The motion passed 4-to-0. Dates for discussion of the revisions will be set in the future.

"This has been a tremendous insight into the deficiencies in the ethics code and employee manual," said Klotz.

The committee also suggested that the Town Board attend a team-building workshop and consider seeking mediation for future disagreements. The board decided not to pursue such a workshop.

Supervisor Sausville excused himself from the discussion of the committee's findings, handing the meeting over to Deputy Supervisor Glenn Rockwood.

Several members of the public stood to voice outrage that the board was not accepting the committee's reports after much time and expense. The investigation cost the town $8,000 in attorney's fees.

The ethics committee is a seven-member group composed of residents not involved in town government that was formed and tasked by the Town Board. It had 11 meetings to discuss the ethics complaints since its February formation.""

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