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Editorials

Is the West Seneca Ethics Board - unethical?
By Daniel T. Warren
Nov 1, 2019, 22:48
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I have to say I am very disappointed at the apparent conflicted state the West Seneca Ethics Board has proven itself to be in. First it was unable, or unwilling, to reach an opinion about a Town Employee, who is currently running for Highway Superintendent, when they allegedly acted in soliciting the efforts of another Town employee, in the WSPD, to get private information on another candidate for Highway Superintendent (who is another Town employee) and giving that information to the West Seneca Democratic Committee Chair, who happens to be the Chairman of our Zoning Board of Appeals (who is also covered by the ethics code) for political use. All the while the Attorney for the West Seneca Ethics Board is employed by a law firm that regularly appears before the West Seneca Zoning Board of Appeals. While a current candidate that is endorsed by the West Seneca Democratic Committee for Town Board is a member of the West Seneca Ethics Board.

Second, this body offers this opinion: https://www.scribd.com/document/433065150/Advisory-Opinion-of-the-West-Seneca-Ethics-Board

I have not located any requirement in the creation of the West Seneca Citizens Budget Advisory Committee requiring it to comply with the Open Meetings Law. In the absence of such a requirement it is not considered a public body which the Open Meetings Law applies to of its own force.

Judicial decisions indicate generally that advisory bodies having no power to take final action, other than committees consisting solely of members of public bodies, fall outside the scope of the Open Meetings Law. As stated in those decisions: "it has long been held that the mere giving of advice, even about governmental matters is not itself a governmental function" [Goodson-Todman Enterprises, Ltd. v. Town Board of Milan, 542 NYS 2d 373, 374, 151 AD 2d 642 (1989); Poughkeepsie Newspapers v. Mayor's Intergovernmental Task Force, 145 AD 2d 65, 67 (1989); see also New York Public Interest Research Group v. Governor's Advisory Commission, 507 NYS 2d 798, aff'd with no opinion, 135 AD 2d 1149, motion for leave to appeal denied, 71 NY 2d 964 (1988)].

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