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At first glance, the Buffalo Board of Ethics appeared a bit draconian when it fined three volunteer members of other city boards who failed to file financial disclosure forms on time. But the Ethics Board is not the bad guy in this situation.

Volunteers who shirk their responsibility by disregarding regulations fail the very citizenry they're supposed to represent. Not to mention the amount of tax dollars wasted on trying to make these delinquents comply. The three volunteers not only failed to file the forms on time, they neglected to pay fines until after separate hearings on the matter.

The city clerk's office sends letter after letter to these folks, by certified and first-class mail, asking them to fill out the disclosure form by the due date. If the city's missives go unanswered, hearings have to be convened and the city attorney and stenographer wind up wasting their time. The hearing alone costs $850. Then the Ethics Board has to review the transcript and decide what, if any, fine will be levied.

Surely, everyone involved has better things to do.

It's so easy to avoid this entire mess. According to Board of Ethics Chairman Douglas S. Coppola, if the volunteers don't want to file the forms, a letter of resignation before the deadline will suffice. Volunteers can even fax their resignations to the city clerk's office.

No fine. No wasted taxpayer money.

Sure, it's hard to find qualified people to serve on these boards. But the public good is served by these disclosures, which take a maximum of 18 minutes to complete.

Why anyone would volunteer to serve on a board and then refuse to comply with the rules is a mystery. These boards exist to serve the taxpayers, and the taxpayers have the right to know what they're getting.

Failing to comply with the rules wastes city employees' time and taxpayers' money.

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