What to expect

Many newly elected public officials want to ensure they represent their constituents to the best of their ability.

After all, these are the people who put them into office. It’s natural that their interests are a top priority for individuals who join public bodies.

But as vital as this is, there is much more involved when it comes to carrying out the duties of an elected official. State laws govern much of how public bodies may operate, and it’s vital for those new to such positions to understand what they can expect.

Representatives of the New York State Association of Towns will conduct two workshops for newly elected local officials next month in the north country. The first one is 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Boonville Municipal Building, 13149 State Route 12. The other one is 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Lorraine Town Hall, 20876 County Route 189.

“These free training opportunities are designed to help prepare newly elected officials for their new roles,” according to a story published Tuesday by the Watertown Daily Times. “Topics to be covered will include conflicts of interest, code of ethics and boards of ethics, financial disclosure requirements, typical town offices and their roles, oath of office and preparing for your first meeting. Both sessions will cover the same information. These workshops are sponsored by the state Tug Hill Commission and the region’s five councils of governments: the Cooperative Tug Hill Council, Northern Oneida County Council of Governments, River Area Council of Governments, North Shore Council of Governments and Salmon Rivers Council of Governments.”

Incoming elected officials should register by Dec. 2 for one of the sessions by calling the Tug Hill Commission at 315-785-2380 or the Tug Hill Region at 888-785-2380. People also may send emails to gwen@tughill.org.

These workshops will help those who haven’t served on public bodies learn about how to approach their duties and carry out meetings. It is good that organizers will conduct these sessions, and we encourage other groups to plan similar events for people in their communities.

An essential topic of conversation for newly elected public officials is their obligations under the state’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings laws. Obviously, we have a keen interest in these statutes because they affect how news organizations cover public meetings and obtain information from government records.

However, these laws are just as important to other residents as they are to us. Public officials must not ignore these statutes or the intent behind them. They need to be upheld if our practice of self-government is to work efficiently.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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