Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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December 3rd, 2015

Legislator Cindy Gieger Cleared – Ethics Board Needs to Go

Legislator Cindy Kurpil Gieger has informed me that she has been notified that all ethics charges filed against her were found to be unsubstantiated and that the cases are now closed.

Anyone who regularly reads this column will know that many questions have been raised about how the Sullivan County Ethics Board conducts investigations into alleged complaints; the composition of its members and the long drawn out manner in which the Ethics Board comes to a final decision.

Gieger was initially served with two ethics complains stemming from two employees – Once those chargers were dismissed by the Ethics Board – Legislator Kathleen LaBuda filed her own ethics complaint against Gieger.

In an added twist – An additional complaint was served against Gieger by the Ethics Board for releasing “Confidential Information” to me about the complaints and reporting them to you.

Not only were ethics charges filed against Gieger, but ethics charges were also filed against me. The Ethics Board complaint alleged that as a member of the voluntary Charter Review Commission I was a County Official and I therefore could not release this “Confidential Information” to you even though it was released to me by the person with whom the charges were levied against.

Any person, Gieger included, has every right to make information that pertains to themselves public.

The Ethics Charges that were filed against me by the Ethics Board were eventually withdrawn.

All members of Voluntary Boards were forced to sign documents that they were considered “County Officials” and had to abide by the Ethics Rules.

It has since been confirmed to me that the member of the Ethics Board who pressed that the charges against me and Gieger were filed for releasing this “Confidential Information” was Sullivan County’s self-professed gadfly.

All the people who filed the bogus Ethics Complaints against Gieger should be ashamed of themselves. I am certain it was not just their doings and that others motivated them.

Legislator Gieger stood firm against these false accusations in what she called a “coordinated political attack.”

The Sullivan County Charter states that the Ethics Board is accountable to the Legislature, yet all proceedings remain clouded in a cloak of confidentiality.

Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson and County Manager Josh Potosek must be held accountable for all the harassment Cindy Gieger was put through that ultimately forced her not to seek reelection.

If Scott Samuelson were a real leader he would have brought all parties together to work out their differences and prevented these ethic complaints from being filed in the first place. Not only did Samuelson not intervene like a true leader would have but he even allowed County Manager Josh Potosek to go as far as to reprimand and embarrass Gieger.

The way Gieger was treated is a perfect example why our new incoming legislators must find someone new to lead our legislative body. This type of backroom dirty politics must be put to an end. The people of Sullivan County voted for change – They expect change – And it must happen from the top.

The current legislature would be doing the new legislature a big favor by removing the current Ethics Board before they leave office.

To fully understand the significance of this determination, maybe we need to take a quick look back as to how this Ethics Board came into existence in the first place.

During the tumultuous period of December 2012, ‘then’ newly elected Legislators were battling against a proposed 14% tax levy increase to fill a $7 million budget gap left behind by the 2011 outgoing Legislature.

Meanwhile, questions about bid-rigging of certain contracts started swirling around. Several Legislators contacted the New York Office of the State Comptroller about how to proceed. The Legal Counsel of the Comptroller’s Office was very clear: “Given the Home Rule status of New York State, it is up to each individual County to refer such cases to its own County Ethics Board.”

At that time, there was no County Board of Ethics, and there was no Ethics Code ratified into County Law. So the Legislature passed a resolution to create both an Ethics Code and Ethics Board under the direction of the County Attorney’s Office.

Public hearings were held on the draft law, but it wasn’t until the law was passed that both the composition of the Ethics Board and the law itself met with intense criticism from some respected members of the Sullivan County legal community.

Particular criticism was leveled that the newly appointed Ethics Board did not have investigators as members, no formal training for any members, no timelines for determinations, nor clear procedures for how an investigation would proceed.

When put to the test, the Sullivan County Ethics Board and Ethics Code failed miserably to conduct timely investigations in a professional manner to a total of five complaints, all lodged in 2015 – an election year for the Legislature.

The Ethics Board failed to follow its own timetable outlined in the Ethics Code itself (Section A84-4 A1): Review complaints within 5 business days; Render a determination within 3 business days, establish reasonable cause and schedule a hearing within 60 days, and issue a decision within 30 days.

One member of the Ethics Board resigned and a replacement was not found within 30 days according to the Ethics Code. Another member tried to resign but was asked to remain until the June 2015 allegation against Legislator Cindy Gieger came to a conclusion. The most recent resignation notice from an Ethics Board member was sent to all Legislators on November 17, 2015.

In response to yet another resignation from a member of the Ethics Board, Legislator Cora Edwards sent an email to all Legislators calling for the suspension of the Sullivan County Ethics Board due to lack of proper training, having Sullivan County employees on the Ethics board, lack of timely determinations and lack of evidence of all allegations.

Barely a week later, on November 23, 2015, the remaining charges against Legislator Cindy Gieger were dropped after more than eight months of deliberation.

Legislator Cora Edwards told me, “This ugly chapter – how the Sullivan County Ethics Board and Code were misused – has finally come to an end. It was clearly a subversion of the original intent of creating an Ethics Code: to have a government that people can trust.”

Edwards told me several members are proposing a resolution to suspend the current Ethics Board.

“A new Ethics Board needs to be vetted, proper training should be given before any allegations are presented, and all loopholes and flaws of the current Ethics Code need to be ironed out. That will give the incoming slate of new legislators a fresh start.”

Hopefully there will be five brave votes to suspend this Ethics Board until the necessary corrections are made by the new legislature.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in the Sullivan County Post

2 comments to Legislator Cindy Gieger Cleared – Ethics Board Needs to Go

  • Shelby Talerico

    It is a crime and a shame that of which was done to Cindy Gieger!! I had the privilege and hounor of teaching 2 of her very well mannered children! She has always been the epitamy of utmost outstanding citizenship and quality for the law! These trumped up charges should be publicly rebuked and apologized for, as well as a complete restitution of her great character restored in front of this entire county for ALL to see and know!!