Campaigning for Accountability: Dan Branda Calls for Transparency in Wake of Vedat Gashi’s Ethics Lapse

3 months ago • 6 minute read

In a concerning lapse of ethical responsibility, Vedat Gashi, Chair of Westchester County’s Board of Legislators, has failed to meet the deadline for submitting mandatory financial disclosure forms, as required by the county’s Board of Ethics and New York State law. The paperwork was due in May. Mr. Gashi has failed to comply with the deadline for two consecutive years.

“Ethical leadership starts with personal commitment to transparency and accountability,” says Dan Branda, emphasizing the importance of holding officials to the highest standards. “It's disheartening to see the intentional disregard for ethical standards by those responsible for upholding them, especially in our local political landscape. While Mr. Gashi has repeatedly failed to uphold the values he claims, my campaign stands firmly for transparency, accountability, and the highest ethical standards. I call upon Mr. Gashi to take the ten minutes necessary to promptly complete his financial disclosure form.”

Mr. Gashi's failure to meet the disclosure deadline brings to light deeper issues within the county's ethics laws and practices. The financial disclosure form is a crucial element of transparency, designed to inform the public about the financial interests of elected officials. The Board of Legislators has recognized the importance of financial disclosure to the public and has extended this requirement even to candidates for office, including an itemized work history. It's noteworthy that these stringent requirements apply despite the county ethics law having no jurisdiction over candidates. Curiously, Mr. Gashi voted in favor of these exact changes to the law.

This spotlight on Mr. Gashi's actions underscores the heart of the matter. Despite recent efforts to simplify the form and make it 'easier to understand and complete,' he has failed to file his mandatory Ethics document. Notably, the revised form no longer demands specific dollar values for income; instead, legislators declare a sizeable range of income.

However, for two consecutive years (each as a candidate for office), Mr. Gashi has requested and been granted extensions to file his required financial disclosure form. His disclosure forms due in May 2022 were not completed until January 2023, according to his signature. Given Mr. Gashi's prominent role as Chair of the Legislature, this troubling revelation raises essential questions about Mr. Gashi's commitment to openness and accountability.

Branda also states that Mr. Gashi’s failures highlight significant flaws in the county’s current Ethics laws and practices, which were updated just two years ago. 

Branda said, “The Board of Ethics actually hinders transparency and accountability by, first and foremost, not publishing the financial disclosure forms of our elected officials online. These forms should be available to the public with a simple click of a link rather than after a FOIL process that can take 30 or more days.”

The Board of Ethics’ adherence to the requirements and principles of Open Meeting laws is also problematic: 

  • Written minutes for each meeting are sparse, providing very little detail about what the Ethics board discussed or concluded. The board’s June 5, 2023, discussion about granting extensions for disclosure forms is summarized simply as: “The Board discussed at length extensions for filing the forms and the amount of time which should be given.”
  • Draft minutes are not promptly published online. Minutes for the board’s July 17, 2023, meeting are still unavailable.
  • Video of the meetings are only occasionally available online. Despite the video availability for most meetings in 2022, no video is available for the four most recent board meetings.
  • The required annual report of the Ethics board does not appear to be available online despite its required submission to the Board of Legislators. Without access to this report, the public has no information about the board’s opinions, precedents, or recommendations for future ethics laws. 

Branda notes that without access to the public discussion of the Ethics board on this matter, residents are barred from knowing why Mr. Gashi requested an extension for a second consecutive year, or why the board granted the extension. We also do not know when he’s required to comply. 

Mr. Gashi occupies arguably the second most powerful position in county government, controlling the agenda of the legislature and having a vote on the county’s acquisitions and contracts. 

Branda stated, “It is unacceptable for Mr. Gashi to continue operating without full disclosure of his conflicting interests. Our campaign stands firm in our commitment to fostering transparency, unity, and accountability within local government. We believe that public officials, especially those in influential positions like Mr. Gashi, should embody the highest standards of integrity and openness.”

The flaws in the county's ethics laws and the Board of Ethics' practices are clear indicators that our community deserves change in how our government works, that it enforces ethical standards and embraces them wholeheartedly. That is why Dan Branda’s campaign is focusing on what unites us and transcending political divides so we can collectively work toward a more transparent, accountable, and united county government.