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Legislature authorizes Ethics Board appointments

Alex Kielar
Posted 6/25/24

MONTICELLO — The Sullivan County Legislature confirmed the appointments of five members to the Sullivan County Board of Ethics for initial three-year terms beginning on July 1. The five …

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Legislature authorizes Ethics Board appointments


MONTICELLO — The Sullivan County Legislature confirmed the appointments of five members to the Sullivan County Board of Ethics for initial three-year terms beginning on July 1. The five members, who are volunteers, appointed to the Board of Ethics are Julian Dawson, Juanita Foley, Sharie Graham, Mark Meddaugh and Liju Varghese. 

While the Legislature unanimously voted 9-0 in favor of confirming the five appointments, there wasn’t a lack of discourse regarding the Board of Ethics. 

District 9 Legislator Terry Blosser-Bernardo moved the resolution for discussion during the Executive Committee meeting on Thursday and said she believes there was a lack of detail on who the members to be appointed are. 

“I don’t know what I’m actually voting on,” said Blosser-Bernardo. 

District 2 Legislator and Chair Nadia Rajsz said that after District 3 Legislator Cat Scott noted at a previous meeting that it was in the law of the Legislature for the County Manager Josh Potosek to vet all candidates for the Ethics Board, Josh Potosek vetted and interviewed each of them extensively.

“I think what Terry is saying is, even though the County Manager went through the process,” said Scott, “that when we are presented with people to appoint, it might be helpful to have some of that information.”

District 8 Legislator Amanda Ward noted that Potosek told the Legislators that he would provide them with all the information that they needed on the proposed appointees, but they told him no in an executive session last week. 

District 3 Legislator Brian McPhillips asked hypothetically that if he would be opposed to having an ethics board through the county for political reasons, would it specifically go to the state. 

“I need that question answered before I can place my vote,” Brian McPhillips said. 

Blosser-Bernardo then brought up the point, in which she said Potosek mentioned, that the Legislature could hire a law firm in loo of having an ethics board and go through the law firm for complaints. 

“I think you have to have a mechanism to address a complaint locally,” said Potosek. “That doesn’t have to be a board, but you’d have to have some other outlet to go through, whether it was an HR firm, law firm or something else.”

County Parliamentarian and Deputy County Attorney Tom Cawley backed up this point saying, “We’re required to have an ethics law but we are not required to have an ethics board. You do have to have a local mechanism in which an ethical complaint – meaning someone violated our ethics law.”

Cawley also said that someone has to vet for the county as it doesn’t divest to the state like Human Rights complaints. 

“You’re supposed to handle them locally, so you would need some sort of determining factor,” Cawley said. “We as a staff kind of all agreed that it would be very unfortunate and unfair to place that on any one of the county employees. We’d have to strike the provision in our local law that created an ethics board.” 

Cawley said that they would then go to the county manager for administrative purposes but an outside consultant such as a firm would handle the complaint inquiries.

After this explanation from Cawley, Brian McPhillips stated that he would not be in favor of having an ethics board and going with the law firm as the consultant. Potosek said that if they want to go down the road of bringing in a law firm, it would take several months to have it in place.

“You might want to appoint them and then if the law changes, the board would just get to stand in,” said Potosek. Scott agreed. 

“We can seat a board and then we can look into changing the local law and engaging a law firm,” said Scott. “I’m in favor of this [ethics] board, but I am also in favor of exploring the possibility of [a law firm]. But in the meantime, what not seating a board does, is it inhibits some things from happening.”


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