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Suffolk ethics board presses for online posting of financial disclosures

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) also wants to

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) also wants to expand the number of officials who file disclosures to include members of law enforcement and the district attorney's office.        Photo Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The Suffolk County Board of Ethics called on county officials Wednesday to allow the agency to post financial disclosure forms online, after Nassau County Executive Laura made a similar proposal this week.

The five-member board voted unanimously for a resolution recommending that county lawmakers consider legislation to require the board to post elected officials’ and candidates’ disclosure forms online.

Board members said the legislation would increase transparency while saving the resources staff use to respond to public records requests for disclosures.

The board, which is appointed by the county legislature, maintains disclosure forms, renders advisory opinions on ethics and conflict of interest issues and conducts investigations.

“We believe it beneficial to be transparent,” board member David Bekofsky said at the meeting.

The resolution came two days after Curran, a Democrat, announced a legislative proposal to require online posting of all Nassau elected officials’ financial disclosure forms.

In Suffolk, Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said he has already requested the legislature’s counsel to draft legislation on posting the forms online.

“It’s already public information, so why not make it more accessible to people?”  he said.

Minority leader Tom Cilmi (R- Bay Shore) said he had “no problem” making his own financial disclosure statements more accessible, but expressed concern that residents could take items “out of context” and make false allegations about legislators. He said he will review the ethics board's proposal if it comes before the legislature.

“Any idea or proposal that improves transparency in government is worth exploring,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement. 

Gregory said he is also looking into expanding the number of officials who must file financial disclosure forms to include all members of law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.

Financial disclosure forms have been an issue in county politics in recent years.

Last month, Suffolk  Legis. Rudolph Sunderman (R-Shirley) was indicted on nine charges, including perjury, after he continued working for the Centereach Fire Department even after the Board of Ethics advised him to quit once he started his legislative job, prosecutors said. Prosecutors accused him of lying on his financial disclosure form and to the Board of Ethics when questioned about his ties to the department, prosecutors said.

Sunderman has called the allegations “untrue and nothing but a political attack on my career.” In a speech  before the legislature hours after his indictment,  he said he planned to stay in office.

Disclosure forms were an issue this year in the federal retrial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

Prosecutors said Mangano, a Republican, took bribes from restaurateur Harendra Singh but never listed the items he was given on his county financial disclosure forms. Mangano's defense team argued that the items were personal gifts that did not need to be publicly reported.

Mangano and his wife, Linda, were convicted in March  on federal corruption charges. They are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 3.

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