The members of the Sweden Town Council have so many Conflicts of Interests that you might run out of paper if you try to write them all down.
The problem is that Sweden is a one-party town. The Republicans candidates always win and the Democrats are so burned out that they didn’t even field a single candidate in the last town election.
So corruption creeps into town politics because these conflicts of interest never become an election issue.
They could be, if the Democrats actually contested the election or if some of the truly honest Republicans in town gathered the 118 signatures needed to force a Republican primary.
Chapter 19 of the Sweden Town Code is the Code of Ethics, and section § 19-5G of the code prohibits even the appearance of a conflict of interest,
G. Each Town employee shall endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that the employee is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of the employee's trust.
So there is absolutely no doubt that the members of the Sweden Town Council have violated the Code of Ethics .
The Sweden Code of Ethics is published on the town website, and in reading the Code of Ethics it seems quite clear that the current members of the Sweden Town Council have violated the provisions at least seven (7) sections of the Code of Ethics: § 19-4, § 19-5A, § 19-5B, § 19-5D, § 19-5E, § 19-5G, and § 19-6.
The conflicts of interest include an inappropriate father/daughter relationship, an inappropriate employer/employee relationship, and an inappropriate town attorney/Republican Party leader relationship.
There may be other conflicts of interests, but they may not be quite as obvious as the conflicts of interests listed here.
Inappropriate Father/Daughter Relationship
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.
Their father/daughter relationship is easily verified by checking Walter Windus’ listing on intelius.com, which clearly states that Danielle Windus-Cook is Walter Windus’ daughter.
According to his profile on Linkedin.com, Walter Windus has been the Building Inspector PT/Code Enforcement Officer for the Town of Sweden since September 2011.
The conflict of interest is obvious. How can Building Inspector Walter Windus be impartial when he is inspecting the properties that his daughter’s firm, Danielle-Windus Cook Properties, LLC has for sale or rent in the town?
This seems to be a clear violation of the Town of Sweden Code of Ethics sections, § 19-4, § 19-5A, § 19-5D, § 19-5E, and § 19-5G.
Windus-Cook was a Republican Party candidate in the November 2013, town elections. According to the Sweden Republican Committee website, “Windus-Cook was appointed to the Board earlier this year to fill a vacancy. She had previously served on the Town Board for nine years.”
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.
Inappropriate Employer/Employee Relationship
The second obvious conflict of interest involves two members of the Town Council, Councilman Robert Muesebeck and Council-woman Danielle Windus-Cook.
According to the Danielle Windus-Cook Properties, LLC website, Councilman Robert Muesebeck is an employee of Danielle Windus-Cook Properties, LLC, which is owned by Council-woman Danielle Windus-Cook.
Once again, the conflict of interest is obvious. 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.
For example, at the Sweden Town Council Meeting on February 11, 2014 Council-woman Windus Cook gave an impassioned speech in which she vehemently opposed the request to grant a 521-m tax exemption to a historic property on the Erie Canal, even though the property is listed on the national Register of Historic Places.
Council-woman Windus-Cook put Councilman Muesebeck in an untenable situation. If he votes to approve the tax exemption, then he might anger his employer, and lose his job.
If Muesebeck does not want to take the chance of angering his employer and losing his job, then he might feel compelled to vote the same way she does on the matter, even if he disagrees with her position. That is a clear conflict of interest.
According to the Sweden Republican Committee website, c was a Republican Party candidate in the November 5, 2013 town elections.
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.
These actions seem to be a clear violation of the Town of Sweden Code of Ethics sections, § 19-5A, § 19-5E, and § 19-5G.
Inappropriate Town Attorney/Republican Party Leader Relationship
The second obvious conflict of interest involves Sweden Town Attorney James (Jim) Bell, who is also the “Leader” of the Sweden Republican Party.
Like many suburban towns in western New York, the Town of Sweden is a one-party town. The Democratic Party is so weak in the Town of Sweden that according to the Monroe County Board of Elections, the Democrats did not even run a slate of candidates in the November 2013 town elections.
According to the Town of Sweden website, Jim Bell it the Town Attorney.
According to the website of the Sweden Republican Committee, the same Jim Bell is also the “Sweden Town Leader.”
As Sweden Town Leader, Jim Bell plays a prominent, and some say dominant, role in selecting the Republican Party candidates for elected office in the Town of Sweden.
So, when the Town Council goes into executive session to discuss any matter, how are the residents of Sweden to know if Mr. Bell is providing legal advice to the members of the Town Council as Town Attorney or as the Town Attorney?
For Mr. Bell to put himself in this position is an obvious conflict of interest. How can anybody, even Mr. Bell, know when he is wearing his hat as Town Attorney and when he is wearing his hat as Town Attorney?
This seems to be a clear violation of the Town of Sweden Code of Ethics sections, § 19-4, § 19-5B, § 19-5E, and § 19-5G.
All of the members of the Sweden Town Council owe their position on the Sweden Town Council to Jim Bell, the Leader of the Sweden Republican Committee.
Mr. Bell’s conflict of interest puts the members of the Sweden Town Council in an untenable position. If they don’t do what Jim Bell wants them to do, they will not be re-nominated in the next election cycle.
There is some indication that this has already happened in a recent election cycle.
Instead of holding the position of Town Attorney and the position of the Leader of the Sweden Republican Committee, Mr. Bell should either resign as Sweden Town Attorney, or resign as the Leader of the Sweden Republican Committee.
§ 19-6. Penalties for offenses
In addition to any penalty contained in any other provision of law, any person who shall knowingly and intentionally violate any of the provisions of this code may be fined, suspended or removed from office or employment, as the case may be, in the manner provided by law.
There are two easy ways to eliminate these Conflicts of Interest.
- Either the council members who have conflicts of Interest should resign,
- Or the Sweden town residents should vote the members of the Sweden Town Council out of office at the earliest possible moment.