Some Jefferson County legislators have added their voices to the growing chorus of dissent over how New York state uses the seals of local governments to promote a controversial law.
The state has used county seals on documents pertaining to the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, a gun control measure passed last year. Jefferson County Clerk Giselle J. Meeks discussed the concerns of other local officials about the practice when she attended a meeting of county clerks from throughout the state, according to a Sunday story in the Watertown Daily Times.
The state has been using county seals often without the knowledge of the officials in those counties. Legislators in St. Lawrence County passed a resolution last month prohibiting their seals use on anything pertaining to the NY SAFE Act.
Members of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators Finance and Rules Committee want to go a step further. They introduced a bill last week that would make unauthorized use of the county seal a misdemeanor.
Under the bills terms, county officers and employees, along with justices of the Supreme Court, County Court and Surrogates Court would be authorized to implement its stipulations. All others would have to apply to the county for the use of the seal, according to the Sunday story. If the bill is adopted, any unauthorized use of the countys seal would be counted as a misdemeanor and punished as such. A fine of $500 per instance or $25 per copy, depending on which amount would be greater, also can be levied.
Counties have been wise to take action to protect their seals and prevent the appearance of endorsement when it comes to the NY SAFE Act. There is plenty of opposition to the law in Northern New York, and local officials should not be put in the position by the state of looking as if they support it.
Jefferson County officials will hold a public hearing on the issue at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, on the second floor of the Historic County Courthouse, 195 Arsenal St. in Watertown. Let legislators know you support their attempt to protect the county seal from being misused.