Antonacci: Onondaga County ethics packages are 'political revenge'

Sep 5, 2017

Onondaga County lawmakers are looking at a trio of packages targeting ethics reform. Two spring out of an ethics proposal put forth by County Executive Joanie Mahoney in June and a third targets the Mahoney administration. At the root of this flurry of reforms is a long simmering feud between the Mahoney administration and County Comptroller Bob Antonacci.

District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, who sits on the county’s ethics board, says Antonacci’s outside income officiating basketball games and doing bookwork for personal clients creates ethics questions.

"He’s the one that’s brought us here. You can check around the state,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is not an issue that is commonplace around the state with other public officials. This is really unique to this individual.”

The Onondaga County Legislature Ways and Means Committee during its meeting last week
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Antonacci says no one has bothered him about this outside income in the ten years he’s been comptroller, until he sued the county over elected officials pay raises two years ago.

"The Mahoney administration doesn’t like the oversight. 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,” Antonacci said.

Which brings us to two ethics packages lawmakers will consider at its meeting Tuesday:

  • One would eliminate all outside income and create a committee to oversee exceptions.
  • The other requires elected officials to devote their whole time to the job and limits outside income with certain exemptions (like property income). That’s the Mahoney proposal.

The first proposal, supported by County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon, would create a special committee to rule on exemptions. McMahon says the idea is to keep politics out of it.

“On the front end it seems like they are political exemptions -- to exempt certain classes and not others. So get rid of the exemptions. That’s what we did. And everybody has to go before this equally. And I think it’s a good way to avoid some politics.”

Sponsor Chris Ryan, a Democrat, also wants to keep politics out of it.

"The clarification and the amendments to the charter clean up what is ongoing and going forward,” Ryan says. “No motivation behind it. Just good governance.”

Republican Kevin Holmquist, who is an Antonacci ally, and has often butted heads with Mahoney, is offering a third package that targets nepotism in county government. That package won’t be considered at Tuesday’s meeting.