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County Legislatures Plans to Strengthen Ethics Guidelines

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – The Erie County Legislature is planning to strengthen its ethics guidelines.

Legislators met in committee sessions Thursday where they asked members of the county's Board of Ethics to meet with them to map out changes. The Ethics Board hasn't met since 2004 and has two vacancies on it.

The focus on ethics follows a controversial opinion by County Attorney Laurence Rubin that Legislator George Holt no longer represents the third district. Rubin said Holt automatically vacated his seat by pleading guilty on January 8th for failing to pay state sales taxes collected at a restaurant he owns.

Legislature Minority Leader John Mills says he believes Rubin's decision is based on sound law.

"My understanding is that Mr. Rubin found when you raise your right hand, you swear to protect the laws of the Constitution of the United States and the State of New York," Mills said. "You move yourself to a higher level of ethics."

Still, Holt's attorneys continue to maintain that his misdemeanor plea does not rise to the level of offense that would require his removal from office.