Grand jury report makes ethics recommendations
GalleriesSteve Levy through the years
The special grand jury noted throughout its report that much of the conduct it considered inappropriate was not illegal, so criminal charges could not be brought. Many of its recommendations centered around changing the county's legal code to make some of the behavior illegal. Other recommendations centered around changes to the Suffolk County executive branch and officials' behavior there.
Among the recommendations:
The Suffolk County Legislature should make punishable as a felony offense: individuals who improperly influence or attempt to influence ethics commission or board decisions or votes; ethics commission or board members, officials or attorneys who make any deals that would improperly influence their votes or decisions or use their authority to improperly influence county officials' and legislators' conduct; the ethics commission process being used to affect county officials' conduct; ethics commission or board members who disclose ethics commission complaints, decisions, internal discussions, hearings or documents.
All future ethics boards and commissions should have more than three members to protect from "improper influence."
Ethics officials should be required to have training in the history and purpose of the ethics commission and issues including confidentiality and conflicts of interest.
Ethics commission or board meetings should occur more frequently. Meetings previously were only once a month.
Executive officials should record employee time and accrual consistent with an individual's classification as management or employee.
The county attorney's office must remain free from conflicts of interest with the ethics commission.
Selection of ethics commission members should be made on "merit, independence and an ability to assess ethical issues not on political expediency or favor."
Procedural guidelines must be established to handle complaints, decisions and hearings.
Compliance with Freedom of Information Law disclosure requests must be standardized.
Complaints to the ethics commission or board should not be prepared by ethics officials on behalf of applicants.