A new ethics code -- controversial since a citizens committee submitted the first draft a year ago this month -- was adopted Wednesday night by a Clarence Town Board anxious to put the matter to rest with the November election approaching.
"I believe it's a very good code of ethics," Councilman Daniel A. Herberger, a Republican, declared in moving for approval, seconded by Councilman Daniel M. Gregorio, a Democrat. The two board veterans will oppose each other for supervisor Nov. 4.
Also voting in favor were Supervisor Paul R. McCarthy, a Democrat, and GOP Councilman John F. Love. Independent Councilwoman Anne L. Case, the only board member not running in November, cast the only no vote.
Herberger said he believes critics of the new code lost sight of the goal of crafting an ethics code tailored for Clarence's small-town government. If some of its aspects prove unworkable, it can be amended, he said.
Code adoption came despite a plea by the Clarence League of Women Voters that the vote be put off until after the election and a warning that it may violate two state laws.
Citizen activist Eileen Boylan, a lawyer, said the code appears to conflict with the state Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws and asked for a delay until an opinion is received from an expert in Albany. Town Attorney Donald A. Alessi, however, said he disagrees with Ms. Boylan, calling the local code "consistent" with the two state laws.
Prior to its 4-1 vote, the board heard from eight speakers. More than 100 members of the audience, by their applause, showed support for either delaying the vote until a new public hearing could be held or approving the code recommended last February by the Clarence Ethics Committee.
Michael Scott, a founder of the new Tax Accountability Party, and Thomas J. Sauers and Bernard C. Gosset, the party's Town Board candidates in November, spoke in favor of the stricter code drafted by the nine-member citizens panel.
"I don't feel you have the support of the public" for the revised measure, Sauers told the board. "The revisions are unacceptable. There is no room for compromise when dealing with honesty, integrity and ethics," Scott declared.
The town's ethics committee was formed in 1995 in response to a critical state audit that year that questioned business dealings in 1993 by three non-elected town officials.
The Clarence League of Women Voters gave several reasons for scheduling a new public hearing and delaying a vote until after the election, among them that "four crucial elements are missing" from earlier versions of the code.
The missing provisions include requiring officials to disclose and refrain from acting on town business affecting the financial interests of a family member, protecting the confidentiality of people who report violations, and a more complete financial disclosure form.
But Ian R. McPherson, a GOP candidate for Town Board and the Ethics Committee's first liaison, said Clarence needs an ethics code that doesn't discourage citizens from serving on town committees.
James Blum of Glenwood Drive called for restoring two provisions -- one requiring developers, vendors and others doing business with the town to disclose their contributions to elected town officials and the other prohibiting town officials from soliciting town employees.
"Clarence citizens want a high standard of ethical conduct," he said.