April 12, 2014

Ethics panel work to begin

MALONE — Legislator Barbara Rice will lead Franklin County’s effort to create a Board of Ethics and revise an existing law from 1970.

The Saranac Lake Democrat will head up a three-person committee to establish and define duties and powers of members and ensure they are educated on issues before serving on what is so far seen as an advisory panel to the County Legislature.

But legislators may have to put something more formal in place in case an ethics complaint surfaces against one of them or the county attorney.


The law covers members of any board, commission, district, council or other agency, department or unit of Franklin County government.

Rice, County Attorney Jonathan Miller and Malone Democrat Gordon Crossman will make recommendations to the full County Legislature at an upcoming meeting.

They plan to use portions of several existing ethics policies, as well as a State Comptroller’s Office advisory to formulate Franklin County’s law.

Rice said she wants specific definitions in the document, such as what constitutes an elected official’s interest in an issue and what a conflict is, “so there is no question on what it means.”


She also wants people trained in the new law.

“That could cost us money,” said Crossman, who in the past has said each legislator should appoint an Ethics Board member from his or her constituency.

Rice said the state offers in-person courses and webinars. 

And Legislator Paul Maroun (R-Tupper Lake), who is also mayor of the Village of Tupper Lake, said some state agencies send personnel out to conduct certain training.

“It’s not an exorbitant amount of money, and it protects you from lawsuits,” he said.


At the same time, Franklin County may revisit whether its Board of Ethics should have its own attorney and subpoena powers.

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