New ethics rules for NY counselors of veterans

ALBANY (AP) – New York state’s Division of Veterans’ Affairs established new ethics rules following an investigation showing two counselors received large inheritances of cash and property from vets they helped both at work and outside of it.

Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott concluded in a report Tuesday that those are ethical lapses, citing inadequate supervision and a faulty conflict-of-interest policy that was recently revised.

“Counselors should not be using their position to enrich themselves with money or gifts from veterans, but must provide services to veterans with competence and diligence,” Scott said.

One counselor accepted gifts including a $23,000 car. She was given access to the World War II vet’s bank accounts to help manage his affairs, though she also used them to pay $2,500 of her own bills, the report said. The counselor inherited his house and stocks after he died in 2010, which the veteran’s family contested, though the will was upheld.

Another counselor received a $28,000 mutual fund in a bequest from a veteran and his wife.

New York law prohibits state workers from receiving gifts of more than nominal value. Both counselors still work for the state. Scott’s findings have been referred to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.