La Crosse County Administrator cleared of ethics violations


The La Crosse County Ethics Board has found the county administrator did not violate ethics codes when he advocated for a city administrator position.

Steve O’Malley said all along that it was within his role as county administrator to promote professional government. He worked with a pro-city administrator group in the spring when the issue went before voters, but was ultimately struck down.

A group of concerned citizens argued that O’Malley violated ethics codes for using county time and resources, like e-mail, to promote the position.

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The three member board agreed with O’Malley, saying his actions were authorized by the La Crosse County Board and were “consistent with advocacy in his profession.” They also acknowledge his actions were transparent.

“The main thing that the County Ethics Board does and what the ethics code is trying to prevent is people taking advantage of their position in order to gain some sort of influence and advantage,” says Rick Kyte, the Ethics Board chairman. “When we looked at the evidence we just didn’t think there was anything like that going on.”

But the attorney for the people who brought the complaint, Bernardo Cueto disagrees with the Board’s the finding. “It means that we have someone in office now who pretty much has free reign to get involved in any local issue, even if it doesn’t specifically La Crosse County, just because you think it might impact,” he says.

O’Malley says it’s part of his job to get involved in politics, but he says he does not participate in partisan issues or races.