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Words and action

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo this week said she is “a firm believer that good leaders listen.” Good leaders also do more than listen; they act upon sound advice.

The county executive demonstrated such leadership Monday when she announced a package of changes to her proposed Office of Public Integrity.

The office was one of Ms. Dinolfo’s key election campaign pledges. And as promised, she submitted a referral to the county Legislature soon after taking office.

A number of people—including opposition Democrats in the Legislature—thought the proposed local law could be stronger, however. Ms. Dinolfo could have dug in her heels; instead, she weighed input from lawmakers and community members and then drafted the amendment.

The changes do not remove any language from her original proposal but strengthen it in several ways. For example, the office now would have the ability to subpoena witnesses or information from any private entity doing business with the county, including local development corporations. It also would have the authority to require any county employee to provide information relevant to an inquiry.

In addition, the office’s director would be appointed to a five-year term and would be barred “from all political activities.” Both provisions are important to help ensure independence.

The legislation calls for the director of the Office of Public Integrity to be named by the county executive but confirmed by the Legislature. The director also will deliver an annual report to both lawmakers and the county executive.

Oversight, especially if truly bipartisan, is important. But to earn the community’s trust, independence is an absolute must. The legislation underscores this by authorizing funds to house the office outside of other county government offices.

The recent string of guilty pleas involving former county officials and others has deepened the stain on local government that will not be removed easily. But with her action, Ms. Dinolfo has taken a significant step toward that goal.

2/12/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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