Hear­ing for gifts of­fi­cials can ac­cept sched­uled

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­line.com pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

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.

FILE PHOTO BY TONY ADAMIS

The Ul­ster County Of­fice Build­ing, Fair Street, Kingston.

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