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LAWMAKERS SEE RISK IN ETHICS LAW VOTE SET IN NIAGARA ON FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

A requirement that nearly all county officials file financial disclosure statements could make it more difficult to to fill openings on several county advisory committees.

That is the opinion of at least two county legislators who will vote on the amendment when the Legislature meets Tuesday.

The county has 40 advisory committees that offer recommendations on policy matters to elected officials and department heads.

Legislator Laurence M. Haseley, R-Lockport, a member of the Legislature's Administration Committee, which is sponsoring the amendment, said the authors are less than pleased with it.

"We are not happy with it, but we are forced to do it because of new state requirements," he said.

"I and others are concerned it will have an adverse effect on our ability to find volunteers to serve on these important committees."

The new financial disclosure rules would affect officials in all municipalities.

Legislator Steven H. Brown, R-Niagara Falls, another member of the committee, noted the county's guidelines are less stringent than the state's.

If the Legislature fails to adopt the Administration Committee's amendment to the current ethics code when it meets Tuesday, state requirements would apply by default in the county.

"The state allowed the county to formulate a plan that was more flexible that the state ethics code," he said. Under the amendment, the following would have to make full financial disclosures:

Elected officials.

Department heads and their deputies and assistants.

Policy-makers.

Officers and employees whose duties involve negotiating, authorizing or approving any of the matters listed in the state's General Municipal Law.

Haseley said committees the revised disclosure requirements would affect include the Board of Health, Community Services, Soil and Water District and Cooperative Extension, as well as the board of trustees of Niagara County Community College.

Brown said municipalities have until Dec. 31 to adopt their own disclosure rules or the state's automatically go into effect.

"If we don't adopt our own code, the state code which is much more restrictive, would become effective locally. After a study of the matter we opted for a lesser version that was approved by the state," Brown said.

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