Ethics Board Tells Mayor to Quit Using City Seal
by Geoff Kelly - posted 5:19 pm, July 1, 2009
I know we come off as curmudgeonly when we fault the Brown administration for seemingly slight offenses like using the seal of the City of Buffalo at private fundraising events.
But it turns out we’re not the only ones who think that’s bogus. Brian Meyer of the Buffalo News reports that the city’s Board of Ethics agrees that Brown should refrain from using the seal at events (such as the State of the City address) that raise money for his private charity, Mayor Byron Brown’s Fund to Advance Buffalo.
The Board of Ethics announced that it reached a consensus on a flap that erupted in January. Buffalo attorney Peter A. Reese lodged complaints about the mayor’s use of the city seal to promote a $35-a-plate luncheon that preceded his the State of the City speech.
Proceeds went to Brown’s Fund to Advance Buffalo, a nonprofit group he founded to help fund youth programs, scholarships and other community causes.
The fund serves a laudable role, Board of Ethics members said today, acknowledging that it is not realistic to erect an “impenetrable wall” between a mayor’s public role and his civic activities.
But in the future, said board member James Magavern, it would be best not to use the city seal for activities that raise funds for an outside entity.
The mayor sent luncheon invitations that displayed the city seal.
“It makes it look like it’s a function of city government,” Magavern said.
Board of Ethics Chairman Douglas Coppola said the mayor deserves credit for partially defusing the controversy when he decided to provide limited free seating for the speech to people who opted not to eat lunch. But Coppola agreed that going forward, it is prudent to avoid using the city seal in conjunction with a nonprofit fund-raiser.