Franklin County ethics committee discussed

MALONE – Franklin County Legislators are still contemplating how to establish a county ethics committee and what that committee’s role would be.

County Legislator Barbara Rice, D-Saranac Lake, is leading the charge to establish the committee.

The board began discussing the issue in March. Since then, legislators have collected and reviewed codes of ethics from Essex and Orange counties and the town of Franklin, and they have also reviewed a code of ethics template from the state Comptroller’s Office.

Rice said codes of ethics vary across the state. Some ethics committees serve as advisory boards while others, like the Orange County Ethics Board, have the power to subpoena.

Barb suggested that the best way for Franklin County to proceed would be to cobble together elements from other codes of ethics.

Board Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, suggested creating a committee that acts in an advisory capacity. Other legislators agreed.

County Attorney Jonathan Miller said he didn’t think he should advise the ethics committee once it’s formed.

“I represent all of the department heads, and I think there’s an ethical issue there,” Miller said.

Rice said the board needs to define the powers of the ethics committee. She also suggested training for all ethics committee members. Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, said training would benefit both the committee and the county. Maroun is also the mayor of the village of Tupper Lake.

“In the village of Tupper Lake, we have a company that comes up once a year and does a day of training for this and other things, like discrimination and workforce violence,” Maroun said. “We try to get all of our department heads to attend, as well as people in the next layer of government. It’s not an exorbitant amount of money, and it does protect you from lawsuits.”

Jones formed a committee consisting of Rice, Miller and Legislator Gordon Crossman, D-Malone, and told them to draft a new ethics policy, which will be reviewed by the Board of Legislators in May and used to form the county ethics committee.

The county’s last code of ethics was adopted Dec. 31, 1970. It outlines the guidelines county officials and employees are to follow regarding matters such as the handling of information, accepting gifts and investments in conflict with official duties.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.