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The Niagara County Legislature may consider a revision to the county Code of Ethics next month that would bar the circulation of political nominating petitions by county employees or officials on county property during working hours.

The amendment was drafted by County Attorney Claude A. Joerg in consultation with District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III.

Joerg's proposed text was approved earlier this month by the Legislature's Administration Committee. It would add this clause to the existing rules: ". . . nor shall such county officer or employee circulate political petitions during working hours on county property."

The Code of Ethics already bars the use of county property or equipment to aid any campaign, candidate or political party, but did not specifically address petitions.

Murphy suggested a change after an incident in last year's campaign for county judge, in which a secretary in his office collected some signatures for nominating petitions on behalf of Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza. Joerg's proposed language adds a paragraph that would allow county buildings and facilities to be "available to a political party organization or election campaigns for political activities, meetings and functions," but only after working hours.

The county attorney said that this would sanction activities that have occurred frequently in the past, such as the use of rooms in the courthouse for evening meetings of county party committees, announcements of candidacy on the courthouse lawn or steps, and political fund-raising events in county parks.

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