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EDITORIAL: Ethics panel should think twice about political donations

Out of the murky depths of the struggle between Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and county legislators over his disclosure forms, we now have a ray of clarity on something: Some commissioners of Suffolk's ethics commission have given political contributions to county elected officials - including Levy - and they clearly shouldn't.

The current Levy v. legislature struggle focuses on Levy's past practice of making his disclosure on state forms, not on the county forms that 600-plus other county employees use. Levy argues that the ethics commission said it was OK. Some lawmakers suspect undue Levy influence on the commission, and they've created a special committee to look into it. On Tuesday, they voted to give the committee subpoena power. It all reinforces Suffolk's image as the Dodge City of politics.

No matter how that turns out, we can at least fix one thing. It turns out that members of the commission had given small political contributions to county elected officials, including Levy. He has given some of them back. But the issue isn't Levy or the size of the contributions. It's common sense.

At the very least, ethics commissioners should be sensitive enough to the appearance of conflict that they'd voluntarily refrain from making contributions to county electeds. But Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) isn't leaving it to chance. He's crafting legislation to make that policy mandatory. That's a law Levy should gladly sign. hN

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