Corrupt politicians get away with breaking the law because they firmly believe that nobody will ever do anything about it.
Better than anyone else, corrupt politicians know the power of inertia. The voters will either complain about corruption, or make excuses for it, but they won’t do anything about it.
If you ask a corrupt politician what you should do about corruption, don’t expect them to say, “Don’t just stand there, do something.”
That’s not going to happen. Instead they’ll tell you, “I’m a nice guy, trust me. Don’t do something, just stand there.”
And that’s what we do.
The Town of Sweden government is the perfect example of Lord Acton’s dictum that, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Lord Acton, 1887
Inertia has set in and Sweden residents stand by and watch corruption happen.
The Town Council violates the State’s Open Meetings Law and we complain, but do nothing. Nobody is willing to sue the Town Council, and that’s what it will take to get them to obey the law.
There are also multiple Conflicts of Interest among the members of the Sweden Town Council, in blatant violation of the Sweden Code of Ethics published on the town website.
But all people do is complain and post comments on David Markham’s blog, which is all well and good, but it won’t change anything.
Somebody has to contact the New York State Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau and request that they start an investigation.
We’re all to blame, each and every one of us.
The Sweden Republican Committee hand picks its candidates, without bothering to check if there are any blatant conflicts of interests, and there is never a Republican Primary where voters can decide between two candidates.
All it would take to force a primary is for a few honest Republicans in the Town of Sweden to gather 118 signatures of registered Republicans.
But not a single Republican in the Town of Sweden is willing to do that. If you talk to prominent Republicans in town, you’ll find that nobody wants to buck “Leader” Jim Bell.
The Democrats in town are “burned out.” They didn’t even bother to field candidates in the 2013 town election.
No wonder the Sweden Town Council is a mess.
But that can change.
Last month, Meaghan McDermot of the D&C broke the story that the Sweden Town Council had violated New York State’s Open Meetings Law on January 24, 2014.
On February 14th, Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government, confirmed that the Sweden Town Council had violated New York State’s Open Meetings Law.
Freeman said, “There is no provision that directly authorizes a public body to discuss “legal matters” during an executive session.”
When asked what the people of Sweden need to do next to remedy the situation, Mr. Freeman responded that, “The only means of attempting to enforce the law involves the initiation of a lawsuit.”
But no one has done so, which is exactly what the members of the Sweden Town Council expect.
At the February 11th Town Council Meeting, two weeks after McDermot’s article was published, Supervisor Rob Carges even had the chutzpah to say that the Town Council had not violate the Open Meetings Law.
Rob Carges is a nice guy, but his claim that the Town Council did not violate the Open Meetings Law is disingenuous.
If someone files a lawsuit, it’s a slam dunk win. The court will rule that the town did violate the law and that it must implement procedures to ensure that it adheres to the law in the future.
But nobody is willing to spend the money on a lawsuit.
Filing a lawsuit to force the Town Council to obey the law could cost about $2,000. That seem like a lot, but if ten people file the lawsuit it only cost each one $200. If twenty people file the lawsuit it only cost each one $100.
You’ll never get your money back, but you’ll be able to sleep well at night.
"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way."
Martin Luther King
If you want to get rid of the corruption in the Sweden Town government, the lawsuit is a great place to start. But you have to do it now.
If the court rules before the next town election, it will be a powerful campaign tool that honest Republicans and honest Democrats can use to defeat the incumbent candidates.
If no one files the lawsuit, the incumbents, who do not have a stellar record for honesty, will run unopposed again, and nothing will change.
The members of the Sweden Town Council don’t worry about breaking the law, because they are convinced that nobody will ever spend the money to challenge them in court.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC)
In reading the Code of Ethics published on the town website, it seems quite clear that the current members of the Sweden Town Council have violated the provisions of at least six (6) sections of the Code of Ethics: § 19-4, § 19-5A, § 19-5D, § 19-5E, § 19-5G, and § 19-6.
The most obvious conflict of interest involves Council-woman Danielle Windus-Cook, who is a realtor in town, and her father, Walter Windus, who is the Town of Sweden Building Inspector PT/Code Enforcement Officer.
Either Walter Windus should have resigned as Building Inspector PT/Code Enforcement Officer for the Town of Sweden when his daughter was elected, or his daughter, Danielle-Windus Cook, should have declined the nomination to run for the Sweden Town Council.
But that didn’t happen. Nobody cared about the Code of Ethics in the Sweden Town Code.
The second obvious conflict of interest involves an inappropriate employer/employee relationship between two members of the Town Council.
Councilman Robert Muesebeck is an employee of Council-woman Danielle Windus-Cook.
How can Councilman Muesebeck be impartial in any vote that his employer, Danielle-Windus Cook, has expressed the way she intends to vote on a particular issue?
Either Robert Muesebeck should have declined the nomination to run for the Sweden Town Council, or Council-woman Danielle Windus-Cook should have resigned from her position as a member of the Sweden Town Council when her employee was elected to the Town Council.
But that also didn’t happen.
There are other conflicts of interest on the Sweden Town Council, and there is even the hint of blackmail. Pick one and tell the Attorney General’s office about it.
Here’s all you have to do to contact the contact the New York State Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau.
- Log on to the Attorney General’s website http://www.ag.ny.gov/
- Click on the Contact Us button at the top of the screen.
- Scroll down until you see the words “To view our complaint forms, click here.”
- Click on the words “click here.”
- Scroll down until you see the words “Public Integrity Bureau Complaint Form PDF."
- Click on
- Public Integrity Bureau Complaint Form “PDF” to open the Complaint Form.
- Print the form.
- Fill out the form and describe the situation on the Sweden Town Council that you think is a violation of the law.
- Mail the form to:
Office of the Attorney General
Public Integrity Bureau
120 Broadway, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10271