The following was written by Jim Carr, Chair of the Chemung County Democratic Committee

Ethics reform is a hot topic in Albany, yet our local legislators have not expressed publicly Thomas O'Maratheir positions.  The key local player is Senator Tom O’Mara.  He is a majority member in the Senate whereas his Assembly colleagues are powerless minority members of their house.

Much of the proposed reform would require public officials (legislators) to disclose the nature of each source of outside compensation in excess of $1000.  “Lawyers, real estate agents and certain other professionals must provide a description of services for which they received compensation and the source of that compensation,” as proposed by the Governor.

When elected to the Assembly in 2006, O’Mara’s law firm was listed as a lobbyist for the Distributors of the wine products produced by his constituents-an apparent conflict.  Will he disclose if that relationship continues and how much does he make from the lobbying?

What other organizations does his firm lobby for?

Senator O’Mara is also the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) attorney.  It is unclear how he gets paid and who pays him for negotiations related to tax relief and incentives for prospective investors in Chemung Co.  Do these negotiations conflict with his role protecting the interests of his constituency?

His Democratic colleagues in the Senate have proposed that, “all state elected officials disclose the source and nature of all income and report all clients of or referrals to, a firm, or practice the elected official works at.”  Will Senator O’Mara support that proposal?  Regardless of ethics reform, will Senator O’Mara fully disclose his IDA responsibilities and compensation?

About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
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  1. Anne says:

    High time O’Mara cleans up that potty mouth of his, too.


  2. BOB McGILL says:

    be carefull what you wish for. If they clean up Albany they just might just start cleaning up the corruption at the local level. Keep in mind the IDA is a county agency, controlled by TOWN Supervisors. The corruption in New York state starts at the local level, ain’t that so pystew.


  3. pystew says:

    Bob, you bring up an excellent point. You mention the IDAs. The Yates County IDA has changed its name to the Finger Lakes Economic Developmental Center. (It is confusing since it only deals with Yates County. It is NOT directly affiliated with Yates County. The EDC has a County Legislator on its Board of Directors–none from the Village Government. I checked the Seneca County IDA’s website, and it seems that they ARE part of the County Government.

    Your point is an important one and is usually glossed over. Working in relatively small communities, local government has a problem with the appearance of impropriety–showing favoritism to relatives and friends. There are decisions made many times a month about where to buy small items, where to get the the vehicles serviced and more mundane activities.

    Before I got on the Village Board, we had a trustee who owned a drug store right across the street of where the Village’s meetings were held. He was known to go to his office to get paper supplies and even band-aids during the meeting if the need arose. There was a complaint about showing favoritism. The trustee resigned.

    As you know municipal bills need to be approved before payment–most but not all. By law here are certain items that the Village can pay with out being approved by the Trustees–Postage, utility bills, salaries, and contracted services where the contract is for a year or more. These bills are approved at the next board meeting under the agenda item “Paid Before Audit.”

    At one meeting I questioned a $28,000 payment to a contractor as a ‘Paid Before Audit’ bill. I didn’t question if the work was done, or even the quality of the work, but how was it justified to be paid before we approved it. I was told that the Village received the bill a day or two after the last Board meeting, and since the work was done the Mayor decided to pay it. Wrong answer. I reminder the Mayor and the rest of the Trustees of the law (which I had with me). I was told that I was misinterpreting it. I wasn’t and everybody knew it. Also, everybody at the meeting, including the Press, knew that the Contractor was the Mayor’s wife’s Uncle. I was the only one who voted not to accept the bill. The Mayor brought up that situation when we met with our Auditors, and was surprised that I as right.

    You may want to look at Waterloo’s personnel policy to see what it says about Conflict of Interest in regards to relatives. We in local governments have to be very careful about what is ethical and what is not. It is not cut and dry.


  4. whungerford says:

    Town and county legislators, like NYS legislators may have a conflict with private businesses or employment. It is an obvious conflict of interest when a legislator, employed by an energy company for example, votes on related regulations.


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