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Ethics changes still under review

No action taken after lengthy discussion

At its latest meeting, the Bethlehem Town Board once again vetted the proposed changes to the town ethics code put forth by a citizen’s advisory committee formed at the beginning of the year.

On Wednesday, May 9, members of the Town Board spent time asking members of the advisory committee questions about the proposed code changes. Committee co-chairman John Hudacs said although the group would be happy to justify the proposed changes, they were merely suggestions and any true changes would need to be agreed upon amongst members of the Town Board.

“We hope to redirect this code back (to town staff) to be put into local law format for adoption at the next board meeting or the one after that,” said Town Supervisor John Clarkson.

The advisory group began its charge by using the state comptroller’s model ethics code for municipalities, which was then adapted to fit Bethlehem’s needs. It also studied the ethics codes of surrounding suburban communities.

The group suggested implementing a five-member ethics board with a limited investigative ability depending on resources. The proposed code also called for a limit of no more than two people from one political party on the board and no one who holds an officer position within a political party.

Town Board members questioned the need for five members and wondered if allegations that were deemed to be unfounded could be stopped at the ethics board instead of being brought to the Town Board, since those allegations could potentially go public. Councilwoman Joann Dawson asked why someone with an official position within a political party would be barred from the ethics board when he or she worked hard to put Town Board members into their seats.

Members of the advisory group said most local municipalities have a five-member ethics board and if the Town Board wished, unfounded ethics allegations could stop with the ethics board.

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