By JOHN ANDERSON
A meeting tonight of the Wellsville Town Ethics Committee has become a public meeting and could go into executive session to discuss the suspension or removal of public officials or town employees.
Wellsville Town Attorney Mike Finn said the meeting will be held at his office on 22 W. State Street at 5:30 p.m.
Finn said he is not 100% sure what the reason for the meeting is, but he said he will advise the committee to go into executive session for a personnel issue under Article 7 of the Public Officers Law. However, a town, village or city government can not just state “personnel issue” when going into executive session, and this meeting would fall into the latter, Finn said. The latter is, “Potentially discipline, suspension or removal or dismissing a particular person.”
Finn said he is going to gather the information the ethics committee is bringing forward and will advise the committee how to proceed. He does not expect any action or recommendations to be made tonight.
Christen L. Smith, a senior attorney for the New York State Committee on Open Government, told the Wellsville Sun the meeting has to be open to the public as two or more elected officials are on the ethics committee.
The ethics committee was scheduled to have a meeting, but when the town council learned a meeting would be held, Deputy Supervisor Patty Graves wanted to make sure there was at least one elected town official or employee on the committee. On November 24, the board appointed Graves and Town Councilman Jesse Case to the committee. (Read our previous reporting on that below)
Finn did announce to the Wellsville Sun the date, time and location of the meeting to make it a public meeting when a reporter mentioned the two elected officials on the committee. Finn did know the law and is not responsible for notifying the public when a meeting will be held.
A legal notice was not needed for tonight’s meeting. However, under Section 104, “Public notice of the time and place of a meeting (must be) scheduled at least one week prior (or) given or electronically … to the news media and … posted in one or more designated public locations at least 72 hours before such meeting.”
The Wellsville Sun is not going to challenge the legality of the ethics because of the violation of Section 104 as Finn has invited the press and public. However, he anticipates executive session.
The Wellsville ethics board will have to go into public session, Smith said, “If they are making decisions or gathering or submitting recommendations to the larger board.” She said the minutes will have to reflect this decision and the best way to do that is to break executive session and make a decision.
She said the board can not go into executive session just to talk about ethics.
“The mere fact they are talking about ethics issues? The answer is no,” Smith said. “It has to be more specific than that. You can’t resuscitate the statutory language.”