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ETHICS PANEL TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The Olean Common Council will ask its three-member ethics panel to decide if Ward 5 Alderwoman Paula Snyder's vote on pending legislation related to her employer constitutes a conflict of interest.

Former City Attorney Jack Hart, former Mayor John Ash and former County Legislator Joe Eade were chosen this summer as Ethics Committee members when the little-known provision in the city's charter was discovered.

The committee's rulings are advisory and not binding.

Snyder is a nurse at Jamestown Community College's Olean Campus and has served several terms as an alderwoman.

The committee will determine if her employment should preclude her vote on a measure that, if approved, would lead to the Council's recommendation that the college institute a project labor agreement with contractors in a planned $31 million expansion.

The proposal was authorized by Ward 7 Alderman John Padlo to increase employment in the area and was first discussed in July in an open meeting attended by nonunion and organized labor groups.

Those groups advised members of the Council about the pros and cons of such agreements. That discussion ended without resolution but with a promise to schedule another forum on the topic.

Before that could be arranged, college officials invited the groups to speak at a board of trustees meeting in August and then voted not to use the project labor agreement in the expansion.

The discussion Tuesday night was expanded to include a second proposal from Padlo and Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Melfi to require the same type of agreements in contracts for city jobs worth more than $100,000. The legislation would apply to upcoming construction of a new city water filtration plant.

Comments came from some of about 40 contractors and union representatives attending the meeting, with a portion focusing on the relative merits of labor unions and others addressing the impact of project labor agreements on wage violations and hiring of local workers.

Ward 3 Alderman Larry Sorokes forced a vote on both measures when the session ran to 90 minutes.

The legislation requiring project labor agreements for city projects was defeated in a 5-2 vote, with Padlo and Melfi casting the yes votes. On the measure involving Jamestown Community College Padlo challenged whether Snyder and Sorokes, who also serves as JCC's Olean Campus dean, could vote.

City Attorney Mark Howden suggested convening the Ethics Committee when Sorokes abstained, but Snyder refused.

"I have no administrative position whatsoever at the school. I'm a nurse whether there's a PLA or not," she said.

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