The Niagara County Legislature may soon vote on a local law proposed by Dennis Virtuoso that establishes a real property tax exemption for converting non-residential property to mixed-use. This is not a bad idea, as conversions of former commercial building into mixed use residential can be a good way to try to attract people back into urban settings.
What this local law doesn't say is that Virtuoso is a major property owner in Niagara Falls, owning somewhere around a dozen different properties. So, the obvious question is: Does Dennis Virtuoso, landlord, stand to benefit significantly from a local law put forward by Dennis Virtuoso, legislator?
If the answer to this question is yes, then the County Board of Ethics should immediately open an inquiry. Clearly, using one's elected position to benefit one's financial standing isn't right. That's called a conflict of interest.
Now, if Dennis doesn't have a conflict, he needs to clearly explain why. Remember, a perceived conflict of interest is equally bad. Maybe his property doesn't qualify, though I don't see how that's possible.
What Virtuoso should probably have done from the get-go on this is state that while he thinks the law is a good idea, he is in a conflict position (or could have the perception of being in conflict since he owns property) and hence will not take part in any debate of the bill in committee or in front of the full Legislature and will abstain from the vote.
That would have been the ethical way to handle this. Dennis chose to handle it the other way and hoped no one would notice. Now, he could have a big problem on his hands.