Committee calls for ethics overhaul

Sweeping changes to Bethlehem’s policies called for

Recommended changes to the code itself include prohibiting the accepting gifts of any kind with a few exceptions like ceremonial plaques, prohibiting knowingly using the position of a public figure for personal gain and prohibiting using municipal resources for personal use. Children of town officials would no longer be allowed to work for the town under the recommended code, even in seasonal positions.

Another recommendation would restrict town officials from seeking employment with companies that do business with the town for up to one year after they leave that position. The committee also recommended a recusal requirement for Town Board members who have private involvement with companies seeking contracts with the town.

The group said the changes to the code were meant to provide clear and uniform guidance to town officers and employees to “ensure honest and ethical behavior.”

Councilwoman Joann Dawson said she appreciated the hard work of the advisory committee but said more time is needed to vet the recommendations.

“The recommendations are very wide and complex and I want to take the time to go through the lines and consider their purpose for this town code,” she said.

She questioned how the town could prevent former town officials from seeking out a job with a company that does business with the town after they’ve left office.

Councilman Kyle Kotary agreed, and also wondered why a hiring block would be put on only the children of town officials, asking why spouses and other family members were not included.

Councilman Jeffrey Kuhn and Councilman George Lenhardt were both wary of the investigative duties proposed for the Ethics Board and wondered if there were certain steps that need to be followed to exonerate an accused official with the public if the accusations have no merit.

The changes to the ethics law will likely be discussed again at the Town Board meeting on Wednesday, May 9.

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