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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 28, 2011
New Scotland Town Board split vote amends ethics law
By Saranac Hale Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND The ethics law that the town board unanimously adopted nearly a year ago and went into effect in January has been amended by a narrow margin.
In a 3-to-2 vote earlier this month, council members Daniel Mackay, Richard Reilly, and Deborah Baron amended the law to eliminate the distinction between the treatment of those who hold professional licenses and those who don’t when they serve on town boards or committees. The amendment also narrows the restriction on what boards and departments they are allowed to appear before to only those on which they serve.
The original law had specified that professionals, like lawyers or surveyors, who sit on municipal boards were barred from “exercising any discretion” in a matter presented to the town by a client and that they were not allowed to represent a client before any board or department in Town Hall.
The amendment makes that section of the law applicable to everyone who sits on a board or works for the town and specifies that they may not represent a client in front of only the board on which they serve or the department in which they work. That means that they can represent a client in front of a department separate from the one in which they work.
“This, to me, was a weakening of the law,” Supervisor Thomas Dolin said this week of his vote against the amendment.
“It was a needless redundancy, basically,” Councilman Douglas LaGrange said, explaining that already enacted laws governing the conduct of the zoning board of appeals and the planning board prohibit members from presenting in front of their boards. Also, he said, “I think we should hold licensed professionals to a higher standard.”
Mackay, who drafted the law with the town attorney, voted for the amendment because certain departments should be recognized as separate and distinct from one another, he said, and it should not be considered a conflict for a board member to represent a client in front of an unrelated board or department.
Both he and Dolin also said that the town board would likely revisit another section of the ethics law that states the meetings of the ethics board are closed to the public, which is a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.