The Niagara County Legislature will consider referring to the ethics board a recent incident involving a reelection notice being sent out by the lawmakers’ spokesman.
Chairman Keith McNall, R-Lockport, issued a statement through the Niagara County Legislative Clerk’s office Thursday announcing he would submit a resolution calling for the ethics review.
It was McNall’s reelection notice that was sent out by Public Information Officer Douglas Hoover on Sept. 30. Hoover disseminated the political communication through a county email address, during business hours, with the county seal.
Jason Zona, a departing Niagara Falls legislator and the Niagara County Democratic Committee chairman, was quick to allege Hoover’s conduct was an ethical violation that amounted to “illegally” using public resources.
McNall said Thursday the code is unequivocal on the issue.
“The Niagara County Code of Ethics is very clear on this point,” he said in the prepared statement. “A review of the circumstances that led to this taking place is important to not only understand what transpired in this instance, but to also ensure that it doesn’t take place again.”
McNall’s comments on the matter have been restricted to prepared, written statements. He declined to continue a telephone conversation with a reporter Oct. 1 and has not responded to follow-up questions asked on Thursday.
It remains unclear how Hoover received the reelection material or who authorized the quotations attributed to McNall in the notice. Hoover has not responded to requests for comment.
The Board of Ethics referral is expected to be considered at the legislature’s next meeting on Oct. 15.
Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, first called for the incident to be referred to the board, a five-person body appointed by the legislature and tasked with enforcing the code.
Virtuoso and Zona both expressed skepticism that Hoover’s decision to disseminate the campaign material was his own. Zona has said he intends to request a public discussion of the matter at the legislature’s meeting.
“The real question is who is telling (Hoover) to do this,” Zona said Wednesday.
Virtuoso said if Hoover was in fact instructed to release the material through a county system, that individual would also be guilty of an ethical violation.
According to the Code of Ethics, the board can impose a variety of sanctions if it decides a violation has occurred. The authorized sanctions range from oral warnings to civil fines.