Arkwright Ethics Committee questions appointment

By DIANE R. CHODAN

OBSERVER Staff Writer

ARKWRIGHT – As a rule, municipal organizational meetings are non-controversial. Not so in Arkwright. At this week’s meeting the three members of the Ethics Committee – David Sanders, Ed Long and Alex Gizowski – were present to object that the assessor and building/zoning control officer should not be the same person. Other residents, including Chris Cannon, Carol Gizowski and Chris Wichlacz, voiced objections.

Last year Arkwright appointed Signe Rominger as assessor and Michael Nordlund as building/zoning control officer. This year, Rominger would continue as assessor and also serve as building/zoning control officer.

Those speaking feel it is a conflict of interest for one person to perform both jobs. The argument was a person can refuse the assessor access to his/her property but not the code enforcement officer.

Wichlacz jokingly said that the assessor should not be able to see if his counters were made of gold. “But you have to allow the code enforcement in.”

Supervisor Frederic Norton answered that a person did not have to allow the building officer into the house.

Wichlacz countered if the building officer is not allowed in then a person can’t get insurance on the property.

Norton said this was not the case. Wichlacz said it was the case from his own experience.

Long said he had gotten a couple of calls on the subject. “I think it is a conflict of interest,” he said.

Norton countered, “I have reviewed it with out town attorney (Jeffrey Passafaro) and there is no conflict of interest.”

Alex Gizowski handed the board some information from the Association of Towns concerning ethics. Later on, his wife Carol read a section of the information. “When there are two competing views, (it is best) to err on the side of caution.”

Sanders listened to the discussion and when asked directly by the board whether he objected said clearly, “Yes, I do.”

Discussion between members of the board and between the board and the residents developed some possible compromises such as waiting to make the appointment and trying to find another code enforcement officer.

Norton answered, “We can’t leave this unfilled. It is not a legal conflict (of interest).”

Norton also said he believed that in some places the assessor and the code enforcement officer are the same person. When challenged, he could not say where this is the case. According to Chautauqua County’s Municipal Directory in Cherry Creek Kevin Okerlund serves in both capacities.

Norton said he understood the concerns of the residents because Arkwright is “full of libertarians which is not a bad thing” but reiterated the necessity to have a code enforcement officer.

In the end the board approved all the appointments as listed. Councilman Roger Cardot was the only “nay.”

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com