On May 25th of this year I was made aware that the Monroe County Ethics Board was investigating my participation in a television commercial that had originally aired in January 2022. This investigation was borne out of a citizen inquiry sent to the Board.
Shortly after this commercial first aired in January 2022, local media inquired as to whether or not my actions in any way violated any state or local laws or regulations. Our research and the media’s came to the same conclusion that no violation occurred. On February 2, 2022, I released a statement (attached) and on February 7, 2022, I was interviewed as part of a news story on News 10 NBC - WHEC TV. I made it clear that the reputation of this office was paramount and that even the slightest chance of a negative perception was cause to pause and reevaluate the matter. As a result, I was clear that I would avoid such activities in the future. I have honored that commitment and will continue to do so.
On December 1st, I received the attached document from the Board. The document was accepted and adopted in its entirety by the Board.
I am providing the twelve page document with this release. Note, any document confidentiality no longer existed when it was shared with my office. Per the report, “As noted previously in this report, the Board believes that Sheriff Baxter engaged in the television ad entirely in good faith for no purpose of personal gain, with no intent to violate the provisions of the County Ethics Code, nor with any knowledge that the same would or could give rise to a potential violation. However, as we have also noted, prior intent or knowledge does not always constitute a necessary element in a finding of a violation of the County Ethics Code and we find that it is not a necessary element to a finding of a violation of County Ethics Code §45-13.A.” Their assertion, articulated by contracted outside counsel, that “unintentionally” my appearance would “raise suspicion among the public that [I am] likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of [my] trust” or that [my] conduct could give a “reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence [me] or unduly enjoy [my] favor in the performance of [my] official duties….” This assertion cuts very close to the heart and I take it seriously.
It is clear that almost two years ago, within days of an individual raising a concern, I took steps to insure that there could be no “reasonable basis” for any negativity flowing from my actions. I was asked by the Board to do two things in response to its finding;
- To put in writing I would not do such a commercial again. On February 2, 2022 and again on February 7, 2022, I stated that I would not participate in a similar activity again, and I have not in the last 685 days
- Ask the commercial not be used. The commercial in question has been off the air for months
I thought it imperative to put this before the citizens of Monroe County. My commitment to maintaining a transparent administration is paramount. I want each and every citizen of Monroe County to know that my promise remains steadfast to securing a safe and prosperous community and cultivating the trust and respect of all those we serve by providing exemplary law enforcement services.