March 22, 2019
This responds to your inquiry (18-187) asking whether you may serve as the appointed Secretary-Treasurer for the Fire District in the same town in which you serve as a part-time justice. In this appointed position you would 1) receive tax monies from the town as well as reimbursements from the fire department for shared equipment costs; 2) pay the Fire District’s monthly bills after audit and approval by the board of commissioners; 3) reconcile checking accounts and report account balances and maturity dates of certain investments to the Board of Commissioners; and 4) issue reports to the New York State Comptroller’s office. You indicate that the Fire District does not engage in any fund-raising activities. Rather another department, which the Board of Commissions oversees, conducts fund-raising.
The Committee has previously advised that when a Fire District’s appointed treasurer “primarily exercises ministerial functions … having no actual or apparent executive discretion or responsibility for setting and/or advocating for the budget, the judge will not be in a position where he/she is involved in highly visible political and controversial issues incompatible with judicial office” (Opinion 18-152). Thus, given your described duties as treasurer, coupled with the fact that the District does not engage in fund-raising activities, it is ethically permissible for you to serve in these two positions in the same town.
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 18-152 and 95-102 which address this issue.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice (Ret.) Appellate Div., First Dep’t
Hon. Margaret T. Walsh
Justice, Supreme Court