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Onondaga County lawmakers pass new ethics law

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci speaks at Tuesday's county legislature meeting

Onondaga County lawmakers passed an ethics reform law during its meeting Tuesday. The new law stems from a simmering political back and forth between county officials, which has led to the law that will limit outside income for certain elected officials.

The legislation that passed Tuesday wasn’t the one that Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney had been touting. But it included clarification of some language that was at the core of Mahoney’s proposal to limit outside income for full-time elected officials.

“My focus has been on clarifying the definition of ‘whole time’ and ‘entire time’, which are the terms that are used in the charter and the administrative code for the county,” said Mahoney. “It’s been clear until the last 10 years or so, and since then there’s been one exception.”

That exception is county comptroller Bob Antonacci, who has had a strained relationship with the Mahoney Administration. He contends the language allowed him to do some outside bookwork and to get paid to referee basketball games. The new law will create a “Charter Conflict Committee” that will determine whether there are any exemptions when it comes to outside income. 

Mahoney says this clarification puts any possible suggestion of a conflict of interest to rest.

“Whether there really is a conflict or not, I don’t know. But I know there is the appearance and the possibility of a conflict. And that’s not the kind of government we run in Onondaga County. And this clears this up,” she said.

Late last week, Antonacci called the proposed ethics package “political revenge.”

“The Mahoney administration doesn’t like the oversight,” he said. “They don’t like the nerves that we’re touching, and this is nothing but political revenge for the pay raise lawsuit and the things that we do.”

The ethics law goes into effect when Mahoney signs it. It will affect her, Antonacci, District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick, Sheriff Gene Conway and County Clerk Lisa Dell. 

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.