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BOOKLET TO CLARIFY CITY ETHICS CODE FOR EMPLOYEES

A watchdog panel that monitors the ethical conduct of city employees is drafting a new booklet that will spell out the city's Code of Ethics in more understandable terms.

The Board of Ethics is also asking the city's Human Resources Department to conduct orientation sessions for employees to review rules involving the acceptance of gifts from vendors, disclosing potential conflicts of interest and related issues.

Human Resources Commissioner Kathleen E. O'Hara said Wednesday that she has agreed to meet with the board to discuss its effort to beef up City Hall awareness of the ethics code. Last month, board members expressed concern that some employees might be improperly accepting gifts from people or organizations that do business with City Hall.

O'Hara said her department is willing to arrange ethics-related seminars, and she commended the board for proposing to create what would become the city's first ethics handbook. The pamphlet would summarize a code that contains 28 sections and dozens of subsections.

Board of Ethics Chairman Douglas S. Coppola said a final draft of the booklet will be completed in the coming weeks.

"The code isn't easy for the layman to understand," he said. "We want to come up with an informative, easy-to-read pamphlet that hits on the highlights.

Under the code, city employees are barred from accepting gifts worth more than $100 from people or organizations that have done business with the city over the past 12 months or have pending contracts.

The Code of Ethics also requires all elected officials, people who serve on city boards and non-civil service employees to file annual disclosure statements that detail financial interests and any outside employment.

The seven-member Board of Ethics is responsible for overseeing the filing of these statements, recommending code amendments and making advisory opinions.

On a related note, Mayor Anthony M. Masiello nominated Denise Sullivan to fill a vacancy on the board. The Buffalo resident is senior vice president of commercial loans, operations and cash management services at HSBC Bank USA. The Common Council is expected to confirm Sullivan's appointment within the next several weeks.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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