Thursday 2 February 2023
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Working Families Candidates Want Ethics Violators Held Accountable

By Tyronda James

Candidates of the Working Families Party urge passage of ethics reform in Monroe County. Standing with WFP is LaKaya Sinclair (far left) and candidates (left to right); Stevie Vargas, Ricky Frazier, Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons and William Burgess. Photo by Tyronda James/Minority Reporter Media Group.

Candidates with the Working Families Party held the Ethics Reform Press Conference May 11, calling for a much-needed ethics reform in Monroe County. They say they want stronger ethics reform for those who are found in violation of ethics codes.

Candidates William Burgess, Ricky Frazier, and Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons urge passage of ethics reform in Monroe County. The three candidates are running against breakaway Democrats who caucus with the Republican majority in the Legislature. 

The candidates are running against and calling out breakaway democrats Vince Felder, Ernest Flagler-Mitchell and Frank Keophetlasy, who caucus with the Republican majority in the Legislature. They say Felder, Flagler-Mitchell and Keophetlasy are stalling progress of  proposed ethics reform legislation that would reinforce consequences for County employees who are found in violation of the code of ethics.  

“In a year when our community is demanding that our government leaders hold themselves accountable, it is very telling that Vince Felder is standing in the way of ethics reform,” said Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons, candidate for Legislative District 22. “This is the type of good policy that should be a no-brainer.”

Vazquez-Simmons said that having worked for years as a boxing promoter, she is not one to back down from a fight, especially when it comes to standing up for my community. 

The candidates were joined by LaKaya Sinclair, who has alleged sexual harassment by County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell. Sinclair said politicians and community members need to be held to a higher standard. “We need a lot of change,” she said.

Proposed ethics amendments will ensure that county employees and elected officials are held accountable for sexual harassment, misconduct, and political conflicts of interest. 

Rochester WFP Chapter Co-Chair, Stevie Vargas, said, “While we are disappointed in our Democratic candidates who caucus with Republicans, our WFP members chose to go against the grain and make sure we endorsed candidates that are aligned with our values.”

She said they are proud of their endorsements and want voters to understand that they must  move past politics-as-usual to deliver real wins for working families. 

William Burgess, candidate for Legislative District 29 said that he is saddened, but not surprised, that Ernest Flagler-Mitchell would go out of his way to stop ethics legislation, especially when he is facing sexual harassment allegations for sending vulgar pictures to a teenager.

A Monroe County District Attorney’s Office review found no evidence of criminal behavior. It is pending review by the County Ethics Board.

“Our community deserves better. I’ve worked for the betterment of young people my entire career, and I will continue to lift up others as a legislator,” Burgess said. “We need real progressive change that supports our young people and families.”

The Black & Asian Democratic Caucus along with Minority Leader Vince Felder issued a joint statement and said they work on behalf of the people.

“We prioritize the needs of the constituents of Monroe County and therefore will not engage in political theatrics because we are about getting the work done!”

The vote for proposed legislation was Tuesday evening.