Hearing for gifts officials can accept scheduled
KINGSTON >> Ulster County lawmakers will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposal that would place stricter limits on the value of gifts that county officials can accept.
The proposal comes after Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach in August issued a report calling on the county to strengthen its ethics laws, saying the current law fails to protect against pay-to-play politics and campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime.
Among the recommendations in the report, called “Ethically Ulster,” Auerbach recommended the county embrace the policies of three other counties to limit the annual number, not just the amount, of “gifts” elected officials can receive from a single individual.
The proposal now before county legislators would limit to $75 in a calendar year the aggregate value of gifts given by any one person to county officials or employees governed by the county’s Ethics Law. The law would apply to “circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift was intended to influence (the individual) in the performance of his/her official duties or was intended to be a reward for any official action.”
The current law limits those county officials covered by the Ethics Law from accepting a single gift under those circumstances from an individual valued at over $75, but does not set a limit on the number of gifts under that amount that the officials can accept from an individual.
Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk said he was unaware of any lawmakers who opposed the proposed amendments.
“We haven’t really talked about it, but nobody’s against it, but I’ve heard,” said Ronk, R-Wallkill. “As elected officials, we have to be held to a higher standard.
The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in the legislative chambers of the County Office Building, 244 Fair St.
The Ulster County Office Building, Fair Street, Kingston.