A public hearing for ye, but not for thee. That was the decision the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors made when faced with dueling local laws concerning the administrator position on Wednesday night.
Convening in a special legislative session to discuss an amended version of the administrator that was passed over in favor of the law's original draft in February, supervisors also heard arguments for a local law put forth with the intention of abolishing the recently created position altogether.
However, only one was approved to move forward in the process.
Arguing that it would address redundancies between the administrator and existing county offices, Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice introduced proposed Local Law #3 as an opportunity to "strengthen the text and verbiage" of the current statute.
Removing wide swathes of the original bill, which had tasked the administrator with working on budgetary and financial matters, critics of the amendment have accused the law's backers of bowing down to external and internal political pressures associated with the overlapping duties.
A motion to set a public hearing on the amended version of the administrator position was made by Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone and approved 10-3. The hearing was set to take place during another special county board meeting on Tuesday, March 31 at 5:00 p.m.
Not all proposed local laws would receive the same treatment.
Sponsored by Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe, proposed Local Law #4 states simply that, "The position of Administrator for Schoharie County which position was established by Local Law #1 is hereby abolished."
Posing the query that, "If you're going to amend something why did you pass it to begin with," an impassioned Skowfoe questioned the reasoning behind the amended version. The legislator would later state that if his colleagues wanted to do away with the original law, his bill was, "there to take it out of the question."
Although it obtained eight yeas to six nays to holding a concurrent debate on both laws in the special March 31 meeting, the weighted votes just weren't there to keep the law alive and it failed from the combined clout of those opposed.
Voting against holding a public debate for Local Law #4 were Supervisors Barbic, Federice, Jordan, Lape, McAllister, and Milone. All of whom had just minutes before supported holding a public hearing for proposed Local Law #3.
Declaring that he was, "ashamed of this board," and that, "this has turned out to be one of the biggest political fiasco's," Skowfoe angrily accused the administrator's supporters of making a handshake deal behind closed doors to ramrod the amended version through by the end of March.
Expressing his own disappointment with those voting against debate, Esperance Supervisor Earl VanWormer commented that, "It doesn't seem like you want a true democratic process." He stated later that supervisors were taking the decision out of the public's hands.
Mr. Federice, for his part, stated toward the end of discussion that residents already had the chance to express their opinion on an administrator over the fourteen month period of time it was before the county board.
Opposed to the removal of an administrator's role in the budgetary process, Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon signaled his opposition to the amended version. The key vote in passing the original law, Buzon explained that on the amendment, "You're not going to have my vote."
Offering, in his words, a chance for his colleagues to redeem themselves, Skowfoe made a motion to hold a public hearing on abolishing the administrator at the regularly scheduled April county board meeting at 10:00 a.m. instead, but that too failed along the same lines as the initial vote.
Visibly disgusted, the nine-term incumbent said only that, "I guess you're really afraid of what the public will see."