The Cheektowaga Ethics Board is quietly preparing to receive dozens of ethics forms Cheektowaga employees and elected officials must file by May 15.
A new file cabinet sits in the town Personnel Department, awaiting the new forms. And Florian Saskowski, chairman of the Ethics Board, says the board members are better prepared than last year for the ethics review.
But, as preparations for this year's review move forward, the Ethics Board says it still has not received last year's form from a member of the Cheektowaga Economic Development Corp. The Ethics Board has grappled for months with the situation involving Richard Cielinski, the economic development corporation member who has said previously his form was filed on time but must have been misplaced in Town Hall.
After sending Cielinski several reminder notices, the Ethics Board scheduled a hearing for Feb. 14 and notified Cielinski by certified mail that he was supposed to appear, according to Saskowski.
Cielinski confirmed receiving the notice but said he was unable to appear and asked the hearing to be rescheduled in a certified letter addressed to the Ethics Board at Town Hall.
Although the letter was received at Town Hall a week before the scheduled hearing, Saskowski did not see the letter until after the hearing.
"My letter was misdirected," Cielinski said. "It was sent to the Personnel Department where it apparently sat on someone's desk."
Because Cielinski did not appear at the hearing, Saskowski notified Supervisor Dennis Gabryszak and the Town Board that the Ethics Board has fined Cielinski $250 and asked the Town Board to remove Cielinski from the Cheektowaga Economic Development Corporation.
Gabryszak wants the Ethics Board to hear what Cielinski has to say.
"The Ethics Board has an obligation to hear him," Gabryszak said. "He (Cielinski) needs his day in court."
Cielinski would also like an opportunity to speak before the Ethics Board.
Though he says he could file a copy of his ethics form with the board tomorrow, Cielinski first wants certain issues cleared up.
Cielinski outlined several concerns he has about filing procedures and qualifications of Ethics Board members.
His concerns include:
What controls are in place to safeguard the disclosure forms? Specifically, who receives the forms; where are they stored and who has access to them?
What qualifications do Ethics Board members have, and are they qualified to review matters in a professional and reasonable way?
Are Ethics Board members under oath to keep all matters confidential?
How long are the disclosures forms retained, and how are they disposed of?
Is there a better way of communicating with the filers?
Cielinski suggested the board establish a written policy on procedures in order to protect the rights of those required to file.
Cielinski is currently putting his concerns in writing and plans to address a letter to the Ethics Board.
"I don't know where I stand with them," he said. "I'm really in the middle of this. It's got to be resolved."
Saskowski said Cielinski has been given many opportunities to comply with the terms of the Ethics Law.
"He (Cielinski) received so many reminders. Is it my fault (he didn't file)?" Saskowski said. "This guy (Cielinski) is playing games."
"As far as I'm concerned, he should no longer be on the CEDC board," he said.
The Ethics Board has the authority to invoke civil penalties against those town employees who violate the Ethics Law. The Ethics Law, adopted in April 1993, requires the supervisor, Town Board members, department heads and appointees to various town committees to file annual ethics forms.
However, the Ethics Board does not have the authority to remove an employee, elected official or committee member from a post. That power is reserved for the Town Board.
Gabryszak said the Town Board will take action in a case involving an ethics violation when warranted.
"If that's what we have to do (remove an official), we'll do it. In this instance (involving Cielinski), there was a miscommunication," Gabryszak said.