The public now has another way to report suspicions of government fraud and corruption in Erie County – by filling out a complaint directly with the District Attorney’s Office.
A link to the new complaint form can be found on the District Attorney’s Office home page.
“The public is our eyes and ears,” said acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr., a Democrat who’s seeking election to a full term in November. “What better way than to have what I think is a pretty simple mechanism to bring to our attention instances of malfeasance and public corruption? Instances of government wrongdoing is not something you call 911 over.”
While anyone can call the police to report a crime, calls about government misdeeds are unusual, Flaherty said.
More typically, those with a complaint to report are referred to the Erie County Comptroller’s Whistleblower Hotline, which accepts confidential and anonymous emails and phone calls. The hotline receives more than 100 complaints a year, according to the Comptroller’s Office.
Flaherty took over the District Attorney’s Office in an acting capacity in January.
Since establishing the office’s Public Integrity Unit, he decided to put in place a more direct way for the public to report government wrongdoing.
The district attorney’s complaint form requires people to identify themselves and sign a statement saying that they understand that any false statements they make are punishable as misdemeanor offenses.
“I want facts,” Flaherty said. “And I’m asking people to sign their name because I want people to take this seriously. This isn’t a vehicle to cause mischief – to settle personal grudges.”
In related news, Flaherty appeared before the Erie County Legislature last week to answer questions about his proposal for sweeping changes to Erie County’s Code of Ethics.
Flaherty’s proposals would prohibit patronage and party leader hires, fire county officials convicted of a crime, limit campaign contributions and close legal contribution loopholes, increase penalties for financial disclosure form violations, and prohibit Board of Elections employees from circulating petitions for candidates to elected office.
Some legislators raised questions and criticisms about particular elements of Flaherty’s proposal, but seemed to express overall interest making some changes to the county’s ethics law. They also seemed interested in checking with other counties for other ethics provisions the county should consider adopting.