Michael E. Rourke candidate for Rensselaer County Legislature from Troy, endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families Party, called upon candidates for the Rensselaer County Legislature to voluntarily disclose all of their employers and those of their spouses.
According to Rourke, with the recent disclosure that the County Legislature's Majority Leader is on three public payrolls, it is time for "all seeking the office of County Legislator to clear the slate and be forthcoming with employment information. The public has the right to know -- before they cast their votes in November."
Rourke has researched disclosure information on file and noted, "A review of the financial disclosure statements filed with the County Clerk does not disclose useful employment information. The county disclosure form is vague and fails to offer useful or substantive information."
Rourke stated that, "the Republican Majority has been very quiet since public disclosure that its Majority Leader earns over $125,000 annually on three public payrolls. With their silence, they condone this official's greed, at taxpayer's expense. That is unacceptable in a city where the median household income is $29,844."
"I would have expected, if they had nothing to hide, that the Republican Majority would have willingly come forward with employment information on the remainder of its members, as a good faith gesture. However, they have failed to do so on their own, so, today, I urge Republicans to join my Democratic running mates in offering our employment information for public scrutiny. It is time for the Republican Majority to break its silence on the matter of public disclosure." "
Voters have the right to know what potential conflicts of interest candidates bring to the offices they seek," noted Rourke. "Voters should know if their representative on the county level has a job that may influence his or her vote."
Sounds good to us! New York State is in dire need of real reform at the local and state level. Spitzer will base his gubinatorial campaign on such reforms and we'll just have to wait to see if he follows through.
It would be nice to see candidates pledge that they will not be employed by more than two municipalities. That's something we'd like to see. Despite "being proud" of his job with the Senate Majority Leader, Mirch's job was a secret. Ultimately, a badly kept secret but a secret. We'd appreciate it if he would make his Senate cell phone number public so all residents of Rensselaer County can enjoy and benefit from his selfless work.
Rourke's proposal can be a starting point for a debate that should have happened years ago. New York lags far behind many other states in the area of open government. Not much has changed since the days of Boss Tweed.
One example is the attitude of Troy's Corporation Counsel, David Mitchell, towards FOIL requests. He's made it clear that no response to a FOIL request is a denial. Why not send a denial letter stating the reason for the denial as well as the time frame for an appeal? There are people, with no axe to grind, who seek information. They don't know the ins and outs of government. They may feel intimidated.
We know why Mitchell does this. He does it because 99 out of 100 people will not jump through hoops to appeal the denial and then go to court if the appeal fails. It's a way to control information and frankly, it's lazy.