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Proposed Code of Ethics Stirs up Village Board

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By Caitlin Croft

This month’s regularly scheduled Village Board meeting opened with a Public Hearing on the new proposed Code of Ethics (CoE). This proposed CoE is almost identical to the one adopted by the Town of Ellicottville back in 2012. New York State mandated that all municipalities adopt a CoE, yet the Village has failed to comply.

Before the April 2017 Village Board Meeting, it had come to attention of Mayor John Burrell that it was necessary to adopt one. At this meeting, Burrell presented the Town CoE to the trustees for their review and to discuss at the May 2017 meeting.

During the May 2017 meeting, newest Board Trustee Spencer Murray presented a revised CoE that he drafted himself. The draft, he said, is essentially the same as the town’s law except for Article VII about Recusal and Appointments. In Murray’s version, the ability to appoint someone to a position who has a conflict of interest with the appointee is deemed non-ethical and the official must recuse themselves on any appointment, discussion or vote; this applies to businesses as well as individuals.  The Town’s version only includes the recusal portion, not the appointment.

The Public Hearing brought a handful of people to speak their minds at the meeting.  The two main questions of the public were, one: why has it taken five years for this to be addressed and two: why now?

Burrell advised he was unaware of there not being a CoE and when he realized, he presented the Town’s version which he helped see into place during his time as Town Supervisor. There are some on the board that feel this urgent need to put in place a CoE is due to the Mayor’s recent appointment of his wife Sheila Burrell to the Village Planning Board; a decision which three members of the Board do not support. There were two possible candidates and Burrell chose his nomination based on 30+ years of experience. Burrell stands by his choice and noted that no matter which CoE is adopted, his appointment could stand because it was made prior to adopting a CoE. Seeing as the board will not confirm her appointment, Sheila Burrell will serve on the VPB as a “hold-over” until the Board can come to an agreement, which could be dragged out until the end of Mayor Burrell’s term in 2020. In addition, Burrell feels if Murray’s version is to be adopted it must go to Public Referendum and the Village residents must vote it in. This advice comes from the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) and attorney Charles Malcomb of Hodgson Russ. Kathleen Moriarty has advised that NYCOM has given two opposing opinions on the matter.

After the explanation from the Board, John Rounds of Adventure Bound on the Fly expressed his concern that it has come to this; the Mayor going against the majority of his board over an appointment based on technicalities. Nick Pitillio of Villaggio was in agreement, and feels if there is a matter closely connected to a board member in the village, that common sense should prevail and they would recuse themselves and/or not make an appointment that has a conflict of interest.

In good news, the Village received a Mortgage Tax Check for $5,997.04 which is 8.2 percent greater than budgeted. Andison vs. Village case regarding the build at 35 W. Washington was dismissed due to the petition being filed outside the 30-day statue of limitations. Last month, the Village chose a new Insurance provider and Murray negotiated the price down another $605.

Burrell then gave his Mayor’s Report. During May and the beginning of June, he attended the following meetings: Consolidated Funding Application Workshop (two meetings), New York Conference of Mayors, Local Government Conference, Cattaraugus County Municipal Officials Association Meeting, Countywide Shared Services Initiative Meeting and WNY Southtowns Scenic Byway Meeting. There was also a fruitful meeting with the Grants Writer, who is working hard on several grants but needs to work with some local businesses to increase our odds of receiving the various grants.

The Village Board has referred the Rezoning Petition from Christopher Perks to the Planning Board in a motion made regarding the property at 5 Park Avenue.

The Department of Public Works was very busy this week cleaning up the Village, hot patching Monroe and Mechanic Streets, along with putting out the newly repaired benches and various other tasks. Harold Morton, long time employee of the DPW, will be retiring in August of 2017.

In Engineering, there was a motion to accept the plan for Still House Brewery.

New Code Enforcement Officer Kelly Fredrickson has updated the report given to the board monthly. The board was pleased with the new format and thanked him for his time redoing it.

In Village Parks business, the board is still waiting to hear about the grant that was applied for in regards to fixing up the baseball fields. The board has accepted the quote from Culpepper in the amount of $5,108.64 for new boards to replace the seats in the grandstand. The DPW will complete the demolition and installation of the new grandstand seats.

Thirty of about 50 commemorative benches in the village have been restored and put into their spots for the summer months. The board plans on a new fee schedule for anyone who purchases new benches and a letter will be sent out to current owners in regards to future maintenance.

In sidewalks, Murray will work in conjunction with Patra Lowes to look into better maintaining or removing the grass between the sidewalk and street that surround the trees. “It [the grass] doesn’t grow and the mud looks horrible,” Murray stated. They will work with the Alley Katz to see if they have any ideas to remedy the situation.

Village Clerk Mary Klahn brought up the issues with the current water rates in the village and complaints she has received. A motion was made to look at the water rates when the full-time village engineer is in place.

The village approved the use of the village park to host the first ever Ellicottville Fall Lacrosse Tournament. The deal has been made and Ellicottville will host this tournament Sept. 22 – 24.

The next meeting of the Village Board will be held at the Village Hall on July 10 at 6 p.m.

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