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DEMOCRATIC COUNCILMAN IN TONAWANDA CALLS FOR STRICTER CODE OF ETHICS

A Town of Tonawanda Democratic councilman says decades of Republican rule have blurred the lines between government operation and the party's interests. And now he wants that to end.

Democratic Councilman John J. Flynn has proposed amendments to the town's code of ethics to prevent what he believes is a continuing practice of mingling town business with town politics. "Every town, city, state should have some type of rule that governs political activities by town employees and town officials," Flynn said. "It's important to make sure town officials don't do anything inappropriate. Having certain rules and guidelines in place is preventive medicine."

But some Town Republicans said the measure should be researched and reviewed by the town's Ethics Board before they can endorse it.

Town Attorney Craig H. Johnson said the proposed amendments are the first since the code of ethics was adopted in 1990. Johnson said the amendments include additional definitions and provisions revolving around politics, such as the use of town letterhead and phones for political purposes.

Flynn said he is pushing for the additions to the law because in the recent past, elected officials who are members of the Town Republican Committee have contacted town employees to support their fund-raising efforts. The town has been a GOP stronghold for decades, so the two worlds easily meshed, Flynn said.

The councilman, one of the Town Board's three new Democrats, said that in the spring of 2003, employees were recruited to sell tickets to a fund-raising event and that this fall, the committee used the town's employee mailing list to send invitations to their homes for another benefit. Both situations would be banned under the proposed amendments.

Flynn said one of those invitations went to Democratic Councilman Daniel J. Crangle's daughter, a summer worker.

Town Republican Chairman Andy Sedita said that since he was named committee chairman in January, the fund-raising efforts have not crossed any ethical lines. "Our fund-raising solicitations have been done through the mail," he said. "I'm not saying town employees have not received tickets in the mail, but they bought tickets in the past. They have not been sold in the workplace."

Sedita said Flynn is proposing changes for a problem that doesn't exist.

Flynn wants a vote on the amendments at next Monday's Town Board meeting. Town Supervisor Ronald H. Moline said the Ethics Board should review the proposed additions first because it would be enforcing them.

"It's not uncommon for us to submit proposed changes to the appropriate board for reviewing and comments," Moline said. "I have no objections to what Councilman Flynn is proposing. I just want to make sure the individuals that are most affected have a chance to review the changes."

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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