BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — The all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas and an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout that Binghamton Mayor Rich David accepted from a longtime friend of his raises some ethical questions.
Earlier this month, David’s good friend, Adam Weitsman, flew him and a group of friends to Las Vegas for a few days to see the UFC fight. David’s share of the trip cost about $5,000. Weitsman, an area businessman, often posts photos on Facebook of him, David and their friends hanging out at restaurants and events. At the end of September, Weitsman posted on Facebook he’s planning to open a sports bar in downtown Binghamton.
“Even though there wasn’t a kind of quid pro quo exchange,” said Anthony Reeves, director of the department of philosophy, politics and law at Binghamton University. “Most people, many people, will feel a kind of pressure.”
Mayor David accepting this gift doesn’t look great, said Reeves. Elected officials are held to a higher ethical standard because their constituents trust them to act in the interest of residents, not their powerful friends.
Even if Mayor David isn’t swayed by this trip, the possibility that he might be acting outside the public interest can erode confidence in his administration.
“So that’s why there’s such a high bar for officials, especially when it comes to friends and family, is they have to show us that there isn’t that kind of environment, that environment where influence will be operative,” said Reeves.
“Private interests will effect decision-making, even if there is no exchange one thing for another.”
The city’s code of ethics prohibits city leaders from accepting gifts that could reasonably be seen as trying to influence them in their official duties.
In a statement in the Press & Sun Bulletin, David responded. He said it should be clear to a reasonable person that the trip was based on their personal relationship, and wasn’t related to his position or duties in office.
“I mean he could have paid for the trip himself, right?” said Reeves. To avoid any question of impropriety, he said, David could have skipped the trip altogether.