2012-03-08 / Front Page

Max target of Ethics Code challenge


Max Max Council Member Angela Wozniak followed through on one of her campaign promises Monday night in calling for an amendment to the Town of Cheektowaga’s Code of Ethics.

Wozniak, the only Republican on the Town Board, proposed to make it illegal for a town employee to serve as an officer in a political party.

The move was clearly directed at Frank Max, the chairman of the Cheektowaga Democratic Committee and head of the Sanitation Department. Max came under fire from town Republicans during last year’s election campaigns for allegedly conducting political business out of his office on town time.

“Too often in our society, government workers use their position for political gain,” Wozniak said in proposing the amendment. “I will do all I can to protect taxpayer dollars from being wasted by politicians on the Cheektowaga payroll.”

Supervisor Mary Holtz and the other five board members, all Democrats, did not second the motion, so it never went to vote.

Holtz took exception to Wozniak’s claim that the proposal was an attempt to take politics out of government.

“Being an elected official is part of politics,” Holtz said. “Committeemen select the chairman, not the Town Board. The person they’re going after now was elected by the committeemen in his district after he was already a foreman.”

Council Member James Rogowski argued that the amendment was unconstitutional.

“It is a constitutional right for someone to run for a public office,” he said. “It is a freedom. It is a First Amendment right. It’s the freedom of association with a political party.”

Council Member Gerald Kaminski, who was elected to the board along with Wozniak this past November, said the proposal wasn’t clear and needed to be discussed more before the board took action on it.

“I looked at it, and I understand what she’s trying to do,” he said. “I tried to find out if you have to quit being a committeeman, or if you have to quit your town job. There’s no clarity on that at all.”

Wozniak said she brought up the issue at last week’s work session but it “didn’t go over well.” She said her colleagues weren’t too attentive to what she was saying.

She promised to bring up the issue again at Tuesday’s work session in the hope of convincing one of the other Town Board members to second the motion.

Wozniak received support from Ted Morton, who unsuccessfully ran for town supervisor last year. Speaking “as a private citizen” during the meeting, Morton urged the board to pass the resolution and lambasted Max over phone records.

Morton pointed to phone records recovered through the Freedom of Information Law that showed Max had made hundreds of phone calls during a 14-month period to political officials and websites.

“The abuse of not having this policy in Cheektowaga has been demonstrated, and now it’s up to the six of you to do what is right for the 88,000 people in this town who have paid the bill for this abuse for too long,” Morton said.

Max shot back when reached by phone Tuesday morning that Morton is a “blowhard” who is upset that he lost the election.

“The phone calls stopped,” he said. “This is a moot issue. It’s over and done with. Why can’t they come up with something constructive? Nothing positive ever comes from them.”

Max went on to say that he is disgusted with the proposed amendment and that Wozniak is being coached by Ted Morton and his campaign adviser, Mitch Martin.

“They tell her what to say,” Max said. “It’s a pathetic situation. I think she needs to be her own person.”

Holtz said Max received a formal reprimand over the phone calls, which has gone into his personnel file, so the matter is closed.

“It’s not something we ignored, and it has stopped,” she said. “As far as I’m aware, there has been no misuse of town equipment.”

Kaminski, who oversees the Sanitation Department, said he spoke to Max and told him, “It’s politics after 5 o’clock.” He also said he would keep an eye on the phone issue to ensure it has stopped.

“If I find any of this out,” Kaminski said, “you know what is going to hit the fan.”

email: mkrueger@beenews.com

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