Weekly Feature



2018-03-07 / Editorials

Erie County leading way on ethics legislation

EDWARD RATH
Erie County Legislator

With all the work we’ve been doing in the Erie County Legislature already this year, it’s hard to believe we’re just two full months into 2018. There are lots of important issues your Legislature is working on to make our community better. This month’s column will spotlight two of those important efforts.

I was proud this month to vote in favor of a new comprehensive ethics law for Erie County. The reforms we’re making are long overdue, and the Legislature passed it unanimously. Once the county executive signs the bill, which we fully expect him to do, we will have one of the strictest laws in the state.

Did you know that we used to be able to accept gifts up to a $75 value? That was overkill, and there are few reasons we should be taking them at all. Under the new legislation, we won’t take anything of more than a nominal value, which would be equivalent to a cup of coffee. There are a few exceptions. One example would be if my wife gets me a birthday present. That’s OK under this new rule, and I encourage her to get me something great. Family members and close friends aren’t included in this rule.

Speaking of family members, it’s OK for them to work in county government as well, but my constituents have a right to know if that’s happening. The new law requires elected officials to include that information as part of their annual disclosure reports.

Finally, the new rules will give the Ethics Board more transparent tools to make sure we stay in compliance. If a lawmaker doesn’t fill out a disclosure report or knowingly files a false one, he or she could be fined. On top of that, the board can refer a complaint to the district attorney, which could lead to a misdemeanor charge and even a year behind bars. This is all to give you the confidence that we’re doing our jobs with no hidden agendas.

The other issue I want to delve into is our continued battle against the opioid epidemic. There are a lot of different ways we’re approaching this fight, but I’m particularly energized about one initiative we’re involved in this month. Recently, I had a very thought-provoking conversation with Judge Mike Powers, who has been on the front lines of this epidemic since he started a drug court in the Town of Clarence. We agreed there is a significant need for prevention and education efforts if we want to attack this issue from all sides.

Together, we are hosting an O.P.E.N. (Opioid Prevention Education Night) at Clarence High School on Tuesday, March 27. The program includes a short film and a student led discussion immediately following, with several panelists contributing their insights. Further, the event will be hosted KISS 98.5’s Janet Snyder. Our goal is to reach students who are at an impressionable age and drive them away from the dangers of opioids and drug abuse. This informative event will also be open to the public, and we’ll be sharing more details soon.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office at 858-8676.

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