Public mum at hearing on proposed gift limits
A public hearing Tuesday on a proposal that would place stricter limits on the value of gifts that county officials can accept drew only one comment — from the elected official who proposed the change.
County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach thanked members of the county Legislature for “moving legislation forward that begins to address several blind spots currently existing in our county ethics code.”
“I want to thank each and every one of you for recognizing the need to tighten it up,” he said.
The proposal before 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 county officials covered by the Ethics Law from accepting a single gift under those circumstances fvalued at over $75, but it does not set a limit on the number of gifts under that amount that the officials can accept from an individual.
The proposal was one of a number of recommendations made by Auerbach in a report calling on the county to strengthen its ethics laws, saying the current law fails to protect against pay-toplay 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 value, of gifts elected officials can receive from a single individual.
Auerbach said he hopes the Legislature also will consider legislation that would address campaign finance reform, or what he said “has been aptly named ‘pay to play.’”