By CATHY KOPLEN NARDI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Otsego County is close to gaining an ethics board.
Otsego County Ethics Board members Kim Muller, Michelle Canton and Brett Holleran met Monday at 5 p.m. to hammer out some details. The board is tasked with investigating and ruling on violations committed by any Otsego County employee as well as any elected or appointed official working for Otsego County
“Before we can accept any complaint of an ethics violation, we need to decide how we will deal with the complaint,” Muller said. “Today, we are working on the standard operating procedures.”
As the Ethics Board SOP started to gain legs, some of the issues the three grappled with included the scope of their authority, a timeline for expedient decisions, swearing in witnesses or requesting notarized affidavits, and handling an impasse when there is not a unanimous decisions from the board.
Whereas the board may impose a fine, or other punishments, they do not have the authority to terminate an employee or to dismiss a public servant. The board can only recommend that others take such action.
The board decided to impose a 30-day timeline on responding to a complaint, and after deciding there is merit to the case, another 30-day timeline to allow for information gathering and for witnesses to make plans. The board decided the witnesses would have to incur any expenses associated with the procedure.
In addition, it was decided that all witnesses would take an oath, swearing or affirming to tell the truth. Only witnesses with first-hand knowledge of the alleged ethical violation would be considered unless the board had questions, at which point there may be more witnesses called.
“If the board is at an impasse, then we may need to ask for more information or talk to someone else, like a boss,” Holleran said.
This is the third meeting of the Otsego County Ethics Board. There is no timeframe for completing the task of implementing an Ethics Board to adjudicate alleged violations, but the board is making progress. The Otsego County Board of Representatives first voted the Ethics Board into existence in 1990, but no board was appointed, It was revisited in 2017.
The next meeting of the Ethics Board will be held on October 15 at 5 p.m.