Editorial: Walter’s ethics proposal a no-brainer

07/25/2013 8:00 AM |

Riverhead Town officials are considering a proposal from Supervisor Sean Walter that would ban town elected officials from serving as leaders of political parties.

While the proposal comes at the convenient time when his onetime political rival, elected Assessor Mason Haas, is set to take over as Riverhead GOP chairman, it seems a reasonable plan. In a perfect town, such a bill would have no problem gaining approval from the Town Board.

But we don’t live in a perfect town. That much was evident at last Thursday’s work session, when the Town Board punted the proposal to an ethics board that has no authority to approve legislation. All the ethics board can do is make a recommendation to the Town Board.

Which raises the question: Does the Town Board really need to ask if banning elected officials from serving as political party leaders is a good idea?

There’s no doubt such a ban seems like a good idea to anyone who’s not an elected official — in other words, everyone the Town Board is supposed to represent.

Supervisor Walter should have trusted his initial instincts and had the town attorney’s office craft legislation on the ban. Then he could have tested his fellow board members to see who had the guts to stand up to party leadership and vote in favor of the proposal before Election Day.