Citing a rash of public officials in New York State who have been convicted of crimes including public corruption, insider trading and sexual assault, Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke has submitted a resolution named in honor of indicted congressman Chris Collins. Corrupt Officials Looking for Leniency after Indictment Need to be Stopped will enable the legislature to impanel a special ad hoc investigative committee to commence investigation when any Erie County elected official, officer or employee defined by, and subject to the reporting provisions of the Code of Ethics, is arrested and/or indicted by a law enforcement agency/prosecutorial agency whether such acts occur in the official performance of their County duties or not.
“We currently have a Congressman who is under indictment and running for reelection. The evidence in the case against him is overwhelming. The leader of his political party says he’s running at the advice of his attorneys which means that he needs to win reelection to use his office as a legal bargaining chip. While this case is particularly egregious, public corruption is not an isolated incident and it is not exclusive to one political party. This system has stopped working for people. It needs to be upended.”
Burke is using the Legislature’s investigative oversight committee into former Erie County Commissioner of Social Services, Al Dirschberger as the model for future investigations. Dirschberger was accused, arrested and indicted on sexual assault charges in Albany County, leading to his resignation from his public position. The Erie County Legislature subsequently voted unanimously to create a special ad hoc temporary investigative oversight committee into the case.
The actions of such committees and any report or investigation would not to be considered a law enforcement matter, but an internal county matter concerning the county employee’s employment and compliance with Erie County policies and procedures.
“The public has lost faith in elected officials at all levels of government,” noted Burke. “People view the entire political process as hopelessly corrupt. And while this frustration is understandable in light of the rash of public officials in New York State who have been arrested of convicted in recent years, it is not healthy for our democracy. Citizens need to feel as though their government is accountable to them. I have submitted this resolution with the goal of ensuring that Erie County officials who are accused of violating our ethics laws are fully investigated by the legislature.”