Binder and Goodman to amend Rules of the Legislature to provide the ability to abstain from voting when a Legislator seeks to avoid the appearance of a negative or positive bias   

(Monticello) – Sullivan County Legislators Leni C. Binder (R-7) and Jodi I. Goodman (R-6) have filed a resolution with the Clerk of the County Legislature that will amend the Rules of the Legislature to provide the ability to abstain from voting when a Legislator seeks to avoid the appearance of a negative or positive bias.  The current Rules of the Legislature only permit for an abstention when there is an actual conflict of interest as that is defined by Article 18 of the General Municipal Law, or the Sullivan County Code of Ethics.

“Under the current Rules of the Legislature NO other circumstance or conduct would relieve a Legislator from his or her obligation to either vote or to physically leave the Chamber,” said Binder.  “Having a close relationship with an individual or firm who has an interest in a matter before the Legislature or having been the beneficiary of hospitality from such an individual or firm is NOT a proper basis for Abstention under the current Rules of the Legislature,” continued Binder.

“We believe it would be preferable to amend the Rules of the Legislature to permit a Legislator to abstention under circumstances where a Legislator has a close relationship with, or has been the beneficiary of hospitality from, a person or firm who has an interest in a matter pending before the Legislature,” added Goodman.

The filed resolution would amend Rule 20 of the Rules of the Sullivan County Legislature to read as follows:

“ABSTENTIONS: Every member who shall be physically present in the Legislative Chambers when a question is stated by the Chairman must cast his or her vote on the same.  The only exception to this procedure is when a member who, after stating the reason, abstains from  voting either because such member: (1) seeks to avoid a conflict of interest pursuant to the Code of Ethics of the County, or (2) states that he or she is abstaining, even though there would be no actual conflict of interest pursuant to the County’s Code of Ethics, because he or she feels that his or her stated relationship with an individual or firm having an interest in the Legislation is such that casting a vote might create an improper impression of positive or negative bias.  In the alternative, at the member’s discretion, he or she may disclose the relationship with the individual or firm having an interest in the legislation and then vote.  If a member wrongfully attempts to avoid casting his or her vote, abstain, or otherwise refuses to vote, the Chairman shall direct the Clerk to record such member’s vote in the affirmative on the question or matter being voted upon.”

Legislators Binder and Goodman have requested that their filed resolution be addressed by the Executive Committee of the Legislature at the first opportunity, and they have requested Legislature Chairman Jonathan F. Rouis to schedule a meeting of the Executive Committee to act upon their filed resolution to amend Rule 20 of the Rules of the Legislature.

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For more information, please contact Legislators Binder and Goodman at 845-807-0435

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