Ulster County Legislator Joe Maloney, I-Saugerties, has been hit with a $7,000 fine by the county committee on ethics for voting last year for a pay raise for his wife, a county employee who works for the comptroller’s office as an auditor.
Voting unanimously, the executive-appointed ethics committee offered Maloney the choice of paying the fine or having it waived if he resigns his office by Jan. 10 “Nuts,” said Maloney on Thursday. “This is politics at its worst, the product of sick brains and a soulless, delusional team. I’m not backing down.” He said he would take his case to court after consulting with a lawyer.
The ruling on Maloney noted that he had been advised after his election in 2017 that voting for the pending CSEA contract (which included his wife) could “give the reasonable appearance of conflict” and that he should not do so as a legislator. Maloney, in explaining his reasoning for rejecting that advice, said on the floor of the legislature that his wife was but one of some 900 CSEA workers covered by the contract and that he was voting for the contract. It passed unanimously.
Maloney, elected to his first term with Republican backing in 2017, but lately caucusing with Democrats, has been a frequent critic of Democrat executive Mike Hein and what he has called “his one-man rule.” Hein in turn has called Maloney “a clown.”
Three months ago, the legislature approved legislation Maloney sponsored that would give the legislature control of ethics appointments. Hein currently recommends all five members, two from each major party and an independent. Legislative approval is required for appointment. No Hein recommendation to the ethics committee has ever been rejected by the legislature.. Nor is there any record of a legislator being charged with conflict of interest.
Maloney said he would base his appeal to state supreme court on what he called “established state law that allows a legislator to vote on a union contract even if he or she has a spouse or relative working under that contract.”