Perhaps now that the City of Lockport has at long last developed a new code of ethics, it can avoid some of the embarrassing episodes that have been the lowlights of past years.
To describe the old code of ethics as lacking would be an understatement. The code was so sketchy that it fit on one page. You could practically hear the wind blowing through the holes.
The new code takes up eight full pages and tackles touchy topics, such as nepotism and gift-giving. More importantly, the code gives the Board of Ethics real investigative power. That in itself is a big improvement. The old board didn’t do anything, other than take up space. No, scratch that. The board hadn’t met in years.
There will still be three members on the new Board of Ethics, just a different mix. One of the old board members was the city treasurer. With all due respect to the treasurer, it’s probably not a good idea to have an elected city official on the oversight board.
The new code is happening thanks to Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey, who took office Feb. 21. She consulted with the New York Conference of Mayors and settled on an ethics code that mirrored the one used in Cohoes, a small city near Albany.
Something had to give. The City of Lockport has found itself caught in an intricate, tight-knit web of questionable ethics and outright nepotism.
News Niagara reporter Thomas J. Prohaska has detailed a series of incidents. One involves the city’s investigation of Youth and Recreation Director Melissa I. Junke’s use of former Mayor Michael W. Tucker’s city credit card to pay for expenses for a golf tournament. Junke, it turns out, is the former mayor’s cousin.
The old code was silent on the subject of nepotism. The new code is not.
Under the new code, a mayor could not appoint a family member to a city job, as Tucker did in 2006 when he gave his son a full-time Highways and Parks Department laborer position. However, last year’s hiring of Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite’s son for the Water Department would have been acceptable, because the fire chief doesn’t hire or supervise anyone in the Water Department.
Now, that’s slicing it rather thin, but the change is real. The City of Lockport is repairing some old problems.