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BOARD OF ETHICS SEEKS TO BOOST AWARENESS

The Board of Ethics, concerned that some city employees might be improperly accepting gifts from entities that do business with City Hall, will launch an awareness effort in the coming weeks.

The watchdog panel announced Tuesday that it will send letters to all city offices, reminding employees of rules contained in the Code of Ethics. Board members said they are taking the action to address a common practice involving consultants and other businesses that invite city officials to be their guests in suites for hockey games, football games and other events.

City Clerk Charles L. Michaux III told board members that he understands a number of city employees were treated to a Sabres playoff game earlier this year by a local consulting company. Employees are barred from accepting gifts worth more than $100 from entities that have done business with the city over the past 12 months or have pending contracts.

Board Chairman Douglas S. Coppola noted that the cost of attending sporting events has increased in recent years.

"It's safe to say that anyone who is invited to a suite is receiving something worth more than $100," he said.

Coppola defended the limits, noting that any reasonable person would conclude that businesses that wine and dine city employees are not just doing it to be nice.

"We can't be so naive as to think that these people who entertain don't expect something in return," he said.

James L. Magavern, a Buffalo attorney who helped to create the city's new Code of Ethics in the late 1980s and still sits on the board, said some employees may not realize that spending an afternoon or evening in a suite is against city rules.

"But everyone needs to be notified in very clear terms that this is a violation," Magavern said.

In other business Tuesday, the board voted to rescind a $100 fine that was imposed on Cedric Hollway, a board member of the Johnnie B. Wiley Sports Pavilion. The fine was levied in July after Hollway failed to file the required ethics disclosure statement. The board rescinded the action after learning its previous warnings were mailed to an incorrect address and never reached Hollway.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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