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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Showing posts with label County Administrator. Show all posts
Showing posts with label County Administrator. Show all posts

Supervisors Approve Amended Admin Law

Written By Cicero on 4/1/15 | 4/1/15

The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors voted narrowly on Tuesday evening to amend the recently established County Administrator's functions and responsibilities, despite public concerns over the amended version. 

Jo-Anne Noone typified the public's sentiment when commenting that creating an administrator was "A promise to eliminate political interests," but that the amended version, Local Law #3, managed to undermine whatever merits the original law had. 

Cobleskill resident Gary Brady concurred, stating that "all of sudden this position is nothing but a big joke." He would go on to state that he felt, "This thing needs to go back to the drawing board."

Supervisors had initially considered both the original and amended versions of the law at February's county board meeting, but had voted to approve the original law after Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon came out against the amended bill, placing its passage in doubt. 

The amended proposal created a firestorm in the political rumor mill for weeks, speculation that Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry sought to clarify at the public hearing.

"To set the record straight, prior to the law's adoption, Supervisor Federice asked me for my opinion and I suggested that the original law be cleaned up before it was voted on in order to more clearly define the role of the Administrator in the budget process," stated Cherry. 

A role that was rolled back in the amended version, as well as with other previously assigned duties the administrator would have been tasked, but proponents of Local Law #3 had argued were redundant with that of responsibilities already belonging to existing officials.  

Upset by the manner of which the proceedings had been set, Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe angrily accused supporters of the amended law of setting the, "public hearing around the weighted votes," specifically that of Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAllister's 481 votes. 

Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice, who has led efforts to establish an administrator after chairing an investigative committee into the matter, took offense to Skowfoe's comments, and stated that there is "nothing underhanded about the amended law."

Voting to adopt the amended version were Supervisors Barbic of Seward, Bleau of Wright, Federice of Conesville, Jordan of Jefferson, Lape of Richmondville, McAllister of Cobleskill, Milone of Schoharie, and Smith of Blenheim (1602 votes).

Opposed to the amended version included Supervisors Bradt of Carlisle, Buzon of Middleburgh, Manko of Sharon Springs, Skowfoe of West Fulton, Smith of Broome, and Vroman of Seward (1046 votes).

Supervisors VanGlad and VanWormer, who had both signaled their opposition to the Local Law #3, were both absent. 

Opinion: Keep Administrator As Is

Written By Cicero on 3/17/15 | 3/17/15

It took the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors fourteen months to establish an administrator to oversee the daily operation of county government. Fourteen months of debate, hearings, research, and soul crushing rehashes of the same arguments for and against. 

And in just one month since the law was enacted, supporters are pushing to amend the administrator to eliminate redundancies of responsibilities between the new position and existing offices, while opponents are pushing to abolish the whole law altogether. 

Worse yet, when voting to set a public hearing on the new administrator proposals, supervisors only set a time and place to discuss the amended version and not the measure to abolish, squashing equal opportunity to continue the ongoing debate in the process. 

By God, only in Schoharie County. 

Let us be frank for a moment: The Schoharie News has stood behind the administrator proposal since day one, because we felt a change in county government is beyond necessary. We didn't stand behind turning this attempt at a solution into yet another problem. 

The original law as written served the needs of county government. The administrator, whomever the poor soul wound up being, would have the authority to oversee the operation of government through all of its faucets, including auditing, budgetary, and financial. 

Guess what? The amended version removes all three of those aspects from an administrator's list of responsibilities because they overlap with existing offices, which apparently justifies their removal and the weakening of an individual not even hired yet.

Again, only in Schoharie County.

Perhaps we are not remembering this accurately, but wasn't the entire purpose of establishing an additional layer of government to serve as a check and balance to the status quo while instituting much needed oversight over all functions of daily operation?

Actually, we just answered our own question, because the answer is definitely yes. Furthermore, if we can't trust an administrator to oversee and work with our exemplary officials and staff in county auditing and treasury, who can we trust him or her to oversee?

With the aforementioned stated, we stand behind the original text of an administrator, and we are opposed to all efforts to either amend or abolish the measure, because if we can't keep this position to help Schoharie County stay on the upright, then we're doomed. 

Confusion Reigns as Supervisors Debate Two Visions for Administrator

Written By Cicero on 3/12/15 | 3/12/15

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." 

County Board Passes Administrator in 8-6 Vote

Written By Editor on 2/20/15 | 2/20/15

The County Board was split this morning, but decided to accept the proposal to create a County Administrator. In the debate, the sides confronted both the potential costs and savings of such an action.

The newly passed law described the position as:

directly responsible to the County Board of Supervisors and shall perform the functions of the chief administrator of the County on behalf of the County Board of Supervisors, although the County Board of Supervisors shall retain the final administrative authority.

The position will require a Bachelor's in Public Administration or Business Management and ten year's experience in the public or private sector or a Master's Degree and five year's experience. Any person that becomes the Administrator is not allowed to hold any other public office.

The proposal passed into law can be read here.

The weighted vote totals were:

Barbic, Seward: 5.5%
Buzon, Middleburgh: 11.8%
Federice, Conesville: 2.5%
Jordan, Jefferson: 4.3%
Lape, Richmondville: 8.1%
McAllister, Cobleskill: 16.2%
S. Smith, Blenheim: 1.1%
Milone, Schoharie: 11.0%
Total Weighted vote: 61.5%


Bradt, Carlisle: 5.9%
Manko, Sharon: 6.2%
Skowfoe, Fulton: 4.3%
VanGlad, Gilboa: 4.1%
VanWormer, Esperance: 6.9%
Vroman, Summit: 3.8%
Total Weighted vote: 31.2%

It is notable that all former Chairs of the Board: Skowfoe, VanGlad, VanWormer, and Vroman all voted against the new position.

Supervisors Bleau of Wright and William Smith of Broome, who penned a recent letter against such a proposal, were absent.

Letter to the Editor: Consistent on Administrator

Written By Cicero on 2/17/15 | 2/17/15

To the taxpayers of the Town of Broome and Schoharie County:

I am writing to you to clarify my position on whether or not we need a county administrator. This is in response to a statement made by the Schoharie News that I “flip flopped” on my views on the issue.

In 2014, during my first few months in office, I stated several times that a county manager, administrator or executive was needed due to our dysfunctional county government. But as time went on I learned that was not the problem! I feel that we have good people and a good system in place for the proper operation of our county, but it is not allowed to work! If we create a new position for county manager or administrator we are forming more government with a large salary and benefit package that puts a greater financial burden on our taxpayers without fixing a thing, because it will not be allowed to work due to the current political climate.

A county manager will not be a magician, just a band aid over the underlying problems of a county that is being run by personal and political agendas, a system that does not have the best interests of the taxpayers and county employees at heart.

You need to be heard! Voice your opinion for or against a county administrator at a continued public hearing at the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors meeting on February 20, 2015 at 9:00 am on the 3rd floor of the County Office Building.

There have been several public hearings on this issue in the past couple of months and only approximately 50 people have been heard. I feel this is not enough of a voice to support a decision for the entire county. Please speak up! You might ask, for example, what would the county administrator do that the supervisors aren’t already doing? And also, where would the money come from to pay the substantial salary and benefits for this new position?

Truly Yours,
William M Smith, III
Town of Broome Supervisor

Analysis: Admin Likely to be Passed

Written By Editor on 2/12/15 | 2/12/15

After over almost a year of near-continuous debate on adopting an Administrator to oversee the daily management of county government, Schoharie's Board of Supervisors are likely to take a positive vote on creating the position within the next couple of months. 

A thorough review of local news reports and video footage from a series of public hearings held on the topic reveal that a clear majority of elected legislators support making the change. 

While some, such as Broome Supervisor Bill Smith have flip-flopped on the necessity of adopting an administrator, others have slowly come around to support the once dead in the water proposal, including Chairman Lape and Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAllister.

McAllister, with his 16.2% weighted vote share, is crucial to securing the measure's final passage. Add his support to that of Valley supervisors James Buzon and Gene Milone, and an administrator is all but guaranteed to be created in a final vote.

Although Supervisors have voted down the proposal in the past - by a lopsided 4-12 margin - new life was breathed into the measure with the creation of a study committee to investigate the positive and negative aspects of potentially establishing the position.

Several months of research resulted in a positive response from the five-man committee headed by Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice. Federice, now in his second year on the county board, has worked diligently to secure support for the still pending legislation.  

Letter to the Editor: Administrator Would Solve Issues

Written By Cicero on 10/13/14 | 10/13/14

Dear Editor,

When a County Administrator was proposed in January I was not in favor of hiring an additional person to run the business of the county full time.  My first opinion was that a County Administrator would be an unnecessary additional expense for the county. 

However, as I observed and participated in the debates on the issues facing our county I realized we needed to examine the options.  

Fortunately, Chairman Van Glad appointed me to be on the Board of Supervisors Special County Administrator Exploratory Committee.   Being on the Special Committee gave my fellow committee members and I the opportunity to meet with elected and appointed officials in other counties and see firsthand what works for them.  What we found was the chief operating officer was an indispensable asset to their respective legislative bodies, department heads and other elected officials.   
It is the recommendation of the Special Committee that Schoharie County like 54 of the 56 other counties in the state hire a full time chief operating officer.  We feel this position is best placed with a County Administrator without any political affiliation.    Such an individual should possess appropriate education and work experience in the field of public administration.     
As we all are well aware, Schoharie County has faced many challenges in recent years resulting in higher costs to taxpayers and widespread employee relation issues.  There is no guarantee a County Administrator would have stopped all of the problems that have come up from happening.   However, a proactive and professional Administrator would surely have identified many of those problems early in their development and given Schoharie County an opportunity to abate them before they worsened.   
On Friday, October 17th the citizens of Schoharie County will have an opportunity to voice their opinion on the question of whether the County should hire a County Administrator at a Public Hearing on the subject at 10:00 at the Board of Supervisors Chamber at the Schoharie County Office Building.  I encourage all who wish to share their thoughts on the subject and to hear other fellow Schoharie County citizens share their thoughts to attend this important meeting which is crucial to the future of our county.   

Amber Bleu, Supervisor
Town of Wright

Poll: Yes to Administrator

Written By Editor on 10/12/14 | 10/12/14

By a nearly three-to-one margin, Schoharie News readers back the proposed Administrator's position recommended by the committee that looked into the topic. The committee recommended a strong Administrator able to coordinate between the different County Departments.

Yes 67% - 91 
No 23% - 31 
Too early/don't know 10% - 13 
135 total

Opinion: Yes to Administrator

Written By Editor on 10/9/14 | 10/9/14

The recommendations are clear: the County government is a mess.

It's not necessarily a mess because of the individuals on the County Board of Supervisors, but rather due to the antiquated system that it runs under. While an overall overhaul may be a better option in the long haul, the chances of it coming into being through the current government system is unlikely.

The committee's report is chock full of relevant research and parallel experiences of similar counties. Chair Bill Frederice has put together a compelling argument that the current system is unsustainable.

After all, it is the current system, with a weak executive in the County Board Chair that allowed the Cassandra Ethington mess to unfold. Even further, there is great instability in such a system-- look at the four different Board Chairs over the last several years.

The Administrator position is non-partisan and independent. It would require some money for salary and at least one assistant, but realistically, it is far more efficient than the current arrangement. For those concerned about the amount of money that would be spent, the Board could propose the exact amount spent to be cut from next year's budget.

The Administrator would allow for the different Departments' efforts to be arranged, instead of allowing for an accumulation of power as Ethington engineered or a mismanaged fiefdom, like Alicia Terry's handling of the Planning Department. Allowing for these Departments to work on similar goals, such as economic growth or streamlining costs is something that has not been done to its fullest.

We always get emails and calls asking for an investigation into x or y department in County government. Wouldn't someone that is responsible for overseeing each one prevent waste and abuse? After all, the current Board Chairman's position is only part time with limited authority.

The Board can make some changes to the recommendations, but they appear to be solid. Tie the threads of County government together in competent hands and help heal the many issues confronting Schoharie County.

Vote in Our Poll: Do You Support Administrator Committee's Recommendations?

Written By Editor on 10/6/14 | 10/6/14

Just a week and a half ago, the County Administrator Committee looked into the possibility of creating a new position to manage local government. The County Board has yet to vote on this possibility. What do you think?

Committee Recommends the Creation of County Administrator

Written By Editor on 9/26/14 | 9/26/14

It may have taken several months, but the special committee set up to study a possible County Administrator really did their homework.

The committee, made up of Supervisors Federice of Conesville, Barbic of Seward, Bleau of Wright, Jordan of Jefferson, and VanWormer of Esperance has published their findings on September 19th.

The report can be found here on the County Website.

The Committee interviewed a series of public officials from counties with similar populations and budgets as Schoharie. Those chosen were Delaware, Fulton, Greene, Warren, and Washington.

They found a series of similar circumstances, between Delaware County having a full time County Board Chairman to Fulton, Greene, Warren, and Washington Counties each employing a full time County Administrator. Those that do have the salary range from $76,000 to $129,000. Their staffs range from just one other employee to three.

Each County that has adopted the Administrator system speaks highly of it, with similar functions. The Administrator is expected to communicate with both the county department heads and the county legislators.

The Committee was clear: they recommend the formation of an administrator. In part, they found:
"The present position of a part time Board of Supervisors Chairman would be enhanced by a chief operating officr who would report directly to the Chairman who should remain as the chief executive officer representing the residents of the County through the Board of Supervisors"
The committee recommends a position created that is meant to be non-partisan or without influence. They suggested a salary between $85,000 and $90,000.

The position would be empowered to execute the will of the County Board. The administrator would attend all committee and full Board meetings. They would also work with the County Board to fill any department head vacancies and could conduct special investigations as needed. The administrator would also serve as the chief auditing agent, allowing another layer of fiscal protection. They would also work on collective bargaining and salary agreements.

The recommendations for minimum qualifications include clauses that no one shall hold a public office while serving as administrator and does not need to be a County resident when appointed, but must move here within 120 days. The candidate would:
"Possess a Bachelor's degree in Business Management or Administration from a regionally accredited or New York State registered college or university and have ten years of full-time paid experience in public, business or industrial enterprise including a minimum of five years in public administration, or, possess a Master's Degree in Business or Public Administration from a regionally accredited or New York State registered college or university with five years of full time experience in public, business or industrial enterprise including a minimum of three years of public administration."
Commitee Chair William Federice of Conesville said that the "need for [a County executive] became increasingly compelling as we conducted our interviews with other counties." He also said that the commitee is "confident those who consider the case for an Administrator without deciding beforehand will come to the same conclusion as the Administrator Committee that Schoharie County needs a full time chief operating officer as is the case in 54 of the 56 other counties in New York State. We feel a County Administrator in that role would bring professional full time day to day management of county business as well as play a key advisory role to the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and other elected officials and department heads."

The results have been shared with the remainder of the County Board, who will consider the proposal.

Inside Look: Administrator Committee Makes Progress

Written By Editor on 7/20/14 | 7/20/14

One month after being tasked with the responsibility of investigating whether Schoharie County government should adopt additional oversight by way of an administrator, Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice informed the county board on Friday that the aptly named Administrator Committee is, "making very good progress." 

The study committee was approved unanimously by Supervisors at the June county board meeting on motion by Blenheim Supervisor Shawn Smith, and was subsequently appointed by County Board Chairman Tony VanGlad to consist of two proponents of an administrator; two opponents of the idea, and one neutral member. 

With hopes of concluding the committee's work by September at the earliest, Mr. Federice - who is serving as chair of the study group - told his fellow board members that they have already scheduled road trips to visit other counties that currently have administrators to obtain more information by asking questions and observing. 

Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry, whom many had speculated might accept the position if created, pointedly dispelled any such motions with a brisk letter to the editor in early July that stated, "I don’t want the job... I will not apply for, nor accept, an administrator position that serves at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors."

Still, pending the release of its findings, the committee's impact on the county board as a whole remains to be seen, which on its last vote concerning the matter, voted down the administrator concept by an overwhelming margin at the May county board meeting. 

In addition to Mr. Federice of Conesville, Mr. Barbic of Seward; Ms. Bleau of Wright; Mr. Jordan of Jefferson; and, Mr. VanWormer of Esperance serve as members of the Administrator Committee. 

Inside Look: Administrator Committee Formed

Written By Editor on 6/29/14 | 6/29/14

Following the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors unanimous vote to study the prospects of creating an county administrator to oversee local government at the June county board meeting, Chairman Tony VanGlad announced the formulation of the study committee's membership early last week.

Among those serving include Mr. Barbic of Seward, Ms. Bleau of Wright, Mr. Jordan of Jefferson and Mr. VanWormer of Esperance. Also selected was Mr. Federice of Conesville, who has been tasked with chairing the pivotal committee. 

Mr. Barbic and Mr. VanWormer have a combined forty plus years of service on the county board, while the committee's remaining three members have less than eighteen months put together. 

Additionally, Mr. Barbic and Mr. Jordan are outspoken proponents of additional oversight by means of an administrator or county executive, while Mr. VanWormer has voiced skepticism toward the proposals and Ms. Bleau has offered few comments on either measure but voted against the administrator concept in May. 

Observers see Mr. Federice as key in committee, because although he voted alongside eleven other town supervisors to squash the concept just two board meetings ago, he has since made statements that he did so due to the fact there wasn't enough information at the time and that he remains undecided on the proposal. 

It is not known whether the Administrator Committee will ultimately have an impact on the county board's final decision, but it can be safely assumed that the committee's approval in conjunction with Mr. Smith of Blenheim's proposed local law authorizing an county administrator indicates momentum for reformists. 

County Board Approves Committee to Study Administrator

Written By Editor on 6/21/14 | 6/21/14

In a reversal from past county board action, local Supervisors voted unanimously Friday afternoon to convene a special committee to review and research whether an county administrator would be beneficial to county government. Blenheim Supervisor Shawn Smith offered the motion.

The county board's unexpected shift in posture came after Mr. Smith offered a local law that, if approved, would authorize the legislature to appoint an administrator to oversee county government's daily affairs. Supervisors had previously voted against the administrator concept at their May meeting. 

Although similar in nature to a proposed local law offered by Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone at the organizational meeting in January, Mr. Smith's bill would specifically exclude the administrator from serving in any additional capacities in county government during his or her appointed tenure.

Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice, who seconded Mr. Smith's proposed committee, told the Schoharie News that, "A special committee to study and make a recommendation to the full Board is exactly what is needed." Mr. Federice had previously written in a letter to the editor that stated more information was required before supervisors could reach a decision. 

Chairman of the Board Tony Vanglad is expected to name the committee's membership in the coming week, which sources within county government expect will be comprised of only supervisors. There is no word on how long the legislators will be tasked with researching the concept before making a final recommendation to the entire county board. 

Mr. Federice, among other members, will be watching the committee's work carefully, because as the Conesville Supervisor told us, "I am truly undecided on the issue and look forward to the debate going forward based on all the information needed to make a decision which is in the best interest of the county." 

Letter to the Editor: County Government in Crisis

Written By Editor on 6/20/14 | 6/20/14

Over the last several months much has been written  with regard to the administration and leadership of Schoharie County Government. And with good reason, based on the recent history of personnel scandals, fiscal mismanagement, and a general inability to work in a concerted effort. Our County appears to be in dire straights.

This past years lengthy and expensive investigation into possibly corruption coming from the Office of Personnel was enlightening if for nothing else than revealing just how dysfunctional our present government has become. As is typical in these matters, what we know as the general public is only the tip of the county government iceberg.

I foolishly thought that based on the election results of last fall with several incumbents not being re-elected and others winning by the narrowest of margins, the Board of Supervisors had been given a mandate to seriously consider how to provide better representation to the electorate. Alas, it was not to happen as at the eleventh hour a parliamentary move put an apparent end of what appeared to be a balanced study of alternative forms of government.

In a letter to the editor in the Times-Journal Supervisor Gene Milone made a very candid remark. Mr. Malone stated that on occasion he does not have the time to acquaint himself fully with all the issues which come before the Board for a vote. And from where I sit, I can fully relate with him. Supervisors, particularly those who are also committee chairs at the county level and represent relatively populated towns, have an incredible work burden in addition to their regular jobs they may hold. It is not an exaggeration to state that they have meetings four of five evenings a week in addition to their monthly marathon, the Full Board meeting.

Is it any wonder that the Board's effectiveness has waned in our highly over regulated State. It is interesting to note that of the fifty-seven counties outside of NYC, thirty-one use the appointed administrator/manager form of government, seventeen have and elected County Executive. While only nine counties continue to be managed by a legislative Board. Simply put, it's not the seventies any longer. Committees regardless of how effectively they are structured can not meet timely enough for today's fast paced and highly complicated decision making.

If this is our past and present, then what might be our future? Many ideas have been advanced over the years. One being a county legislature made up of any number of local districts. Surprisingly this system is used not only by the largest Counties within the State but some of the more moderately sized, with a significant amount agricultural base. We have also seen some local movement regarding the appointed County Administrator and to a lesser extent the elected County Manager forms of government. All have their respective pluses and minuses. Yet unfortunately due to the recent action or better said inaction of the Board of Supervisors we may never know what might best fit Schoharie County.

From a practical standpoint I don't envision the County Legislature concept ever moving forward as the Board lacks the political courage to essentially end their current way of life. While the elected County Executive is less of a blow as the Board remains intact, it means there would be a publicly elected official whom some may perceive as having greater authority (translation = power) than the Supervisors themselves. Again, a somewhat unlikely scenario.

This leaves an appointed County Administrator or Manager as the only viable political option. True, appointed by the Board, yet able to act independently in part by the protection afforded by his/her employment contract. This could allow the County to hire a fresh face, unscarred by local combat. Someone with a Master's Degree in Public Administration and having enough real world experience to lead a multi-million dollar service oriented company of some four-hundred plus employees, which is Schoharie  County.

Hopefully and perhaps ideally, gone would be the seemingly never ending sagas of questionable management practices at the great expense of tax payers hard earned dollars. I am hopeful that the County Board of Supervisors, particularly those taking office the result of the last election cycle, can convince their colleagues to reopen their study on alternatives forms of local government. And eventually exercise the political courage and visionary leadership skills the voters know you are capable of producing.

Brian DeFeo

Mr. DeFeo serves on the Middleburgh Town Board.

Opinion: Unwilling to Act

Written By Editor on 5/21/14 | 5/21/14

Supervisors concluded hours of emotional and fiery debate Friday afternoon by voting down the concept of a county administrator. Only four of them - Barbic of Seward, Jordan of Jefferson, Milone of Schoharie, and Smith of Blenheim - supported the idea first introduced by Mr. Milone in January.

What a disgrace.

Now our opinion at the Schoharie News is that what we really need is an elected executive to oversee the daily operation of county government, but in reality we accept that anything is better than maintaining the status quo of our three ring circus better known as the monthly county board meeting. 

If that means appointing a qualified individual with graduate-level college experience to act as the check on government run amok, so be it. Trusting the people at-large with that decision is our preference, but we understand such as Rome wasn't built in one day; neither will Schoharie be reformed in one vote. 

However, the true crux of the situation lies with the county board's unwillingness to take decisive action on the issue at hand. That issue being the county's inability to function without either ineptitude or hidden agendas bogging down the effective operation of local government, but that in itself explains the county board. 

Change rarely, if ever, occurs at a breakneck pace, but we had hoped it would receive more than just four votes on a Schoharie County Board of Supervisors consisting of six newly elected members and ten veteran lawmakers, who all either ran against or witnessed in person, the horrors of county corruption and governmental ineffectiveness that has plagued local politics.

But.... We digress. 

Letter to the Editor: Milone Urges County Administrator Approval

Written By Editor on 5/5/14 | 5/5/14

Dear Editor,

It has been five months since I introduced a Local Law calling for the appointment of a County Administrator, someone who would shoulder the responsibilities of a Chief Administrator working in conjunction with the County Board of Supervisors on a daily basis concerning the overall administration of county government. This is something our county has never had and is in desperate need of.  He or she would also become the go-to person on a daily basis pertaining to issues that affect not only the work force but, the general public as well.  This individual would appoint such office staff authorized by the board, take recommendations to the appropriate committee or to the Chairman of the Board, including recommendations to hire department head positions, work in conjunction with and coordinate activities of county department heads and the administration of all units of county government in order to most efficiently implement the directions of the Board of Supervisors.  He or she would have general supervision of all county departments and agencies, including supervision of purchasing and auditing functions, work with each department on the development of an annual plan (goals) for the most effective and efficient operation of county government, to aid the Board of Supervisors in evaluating proposals presented and make recommendations concerning such proposals, to serve as an adviser in developing policies and procedures, to initiate and oversee the collective bargaining process with organized employees and to serve as the Labor Relations Director to resolve grievances, to execute and approve contracts in the name of the county and be authorized to transfer funds within the adopted budget and to have such powers to perform other duties empowered by the Board of Supervisors.

This brief overview is what would be expected of this individual, creating something which has been missing in county government for a long time, that being accountability as well as someone watching the store on a daily basis which any successful business owner can appreciate.  The current state of our county government continues to leave a lot to be desired.  We have been without an IT Director for almost a year and a half, the Health Dept. still does not have a permanent director as well as the Personnel Dept.  Major contracts have been jeopardized by incompetence and we still have some individuals in place that were part of a conspiracy unveiled by the Fitzmaurice report.

It has been the philosophy of the Board of Supervisors for years that they, and only they, run the county, never willing to recognize that perhaps in many instances they were in over their heads on issues.  While it is not my intention to discredit my colleagues that I sit with at the County, because I appreciate and care about them all, I am willing to recognize that we are in need of help.  If that is not apparent then we become part of the problem and not part of the cure.  It remains my wish that the County Board and the general public take a serious look at the local law that was introduced.  Take a bold step forward in an attempt to remedy the issues which have plagued our county for years and if this concept proves successful we will have afforded our constituents the type of representation and government they well deserve.

Collectively we can stop county government from floundering on a daily basis.  We have an obligation to provide efficient and meaningful government.  Change never comes easy but if we can recognize change is necessary it becomes a lot more palatable. 

Gene Milone
Schoharie Supervisor

Opinion: County Administrator Won't Cut It

Written By Editor on 3/27/14 | 3/27/14

In the midst of two hours of back and forth arguing over the $2.6 million stream bank project budget shortfall this past Friday, Town of Broome Supervisor Bill Smith voiced his first public support for adopting a county administrator to provide additional oversight in Schoharie County government. Two months ago, the Schoharie News would have agreed; today, not a chance. 

There is no telling how we have reached this point in county affairs, as the tale varies depending on who you talk to in power, but one thing is for certain: there are no easy fixes to this crisis of mismanagement and corruption, and no band-aid solutions that will correct our county's faulty heading. 

Supervisors Milone and VanWormer should both be applauded for recognizing the status quo needs to be disrupted in some form on the county board, and that local government is in desperate need of real oversight after the Ethington and AECOM scandals. However, elevating one person - whether it be an administrator or an empowered Chairman - just wont cut it anymore.

The reason being is that nothing would change. Occupants of both proposed positions would be beholden to the county board for reappointment or reelection, and as such, they would be temperate in leadership as to not jeopardize their status. In addition, what's to say either position wouldn't become just a scapegoat of the very entrenched power they are being proposed to oversee?

Herein lies the crux of the county's dilemma - if we cannot trust the system we have to work, and neither of the proposed solutions would move the football beyond supplying the county board with a public scapegoat - then what other course of action is left but to consider taking the ultimate step and approving the creation of a county executive. 

Although the proposal is the bane of the board's existence, can we look at this objectively for one minute: is there any conceivable way having an elected, full-time county executive who would have the power to check the excesses of the Board of Supervisors, while monitoring the actions of department heads and ensuring all gears of county government work properly turn out bad? 

We don't think there is, but we could be wrong, of course. The editorial view of this internet newspaper has and always will be that reform is needed to sweep the ills of corruption, mismanagement and the public's lack of faith in local government out of the county system once and for all. But what do we know? We're just idealists... The only people who can change the system are the people of Schoharie County.  

VanWormer: Empower Board Chairman to Meet Administrative Needs

Written By Editor on 3/3/14 | 3/3/14

With the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors largely undecided on Schoharie Town Supervisor Gene Milone's county administrator proposal, one member believes the ongoing public debate could be resolved within the framework we currently have now, rather than adding an executive layer to local bureaucracy.

Arguing that the implementation of an appointed county administrator would further widen the gap between residents and their government, Esperance Town Supervisor Earl VanWormer has suggested a simpler fix to the county's lack of executive oversight: empowering the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors to assume many of the proposed administrator's responsibilities.

Mr. VanWormer's proposed change would elevate the Board Chairman, a position he held for much of the last decade, to the equivalent of an Prime Minister in a parliamentary system. In addition to representing their town's constituents on the board, they would oversee the daily operations of county government and work with the department heads to ensure all gears turn properly. 

Citing figures that range from $250,000-$300,000 to cover the costs of an county administrator and all the position entails - personal staff, work space, office supplies, etc. - the Esperance lawmaker believes only a modest salary increase would be necessary to adequately compliment a full-time board chairman's additional workload. 

Coming just days after the Board of Supervisors welcomed the Greene County Administrator to brief them on his county's own governmental transition, it remains to be seen whether Mr. VanWormer's proposal takes a foothold in the continuing conversation, or like other proposed changes to county government, is assigned to the wastebasket of history. 

Poll: Readers Split Evenly Over County Administrator

Written By Editor on 1/28/14 | 1/28/14

The latest Schoharie News poll has found readers are evenly divided over whether or not a County Administrator position should be implemented. The position's creation was proposed by Town of Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone earlier this month and has ignited a political firestorm in its wake. 

Reflecting the political sentiment of Schoharie County on this topic, readers were split evenly at 46% in support and opposition of the proposal while the remaining 6% were undecided. Over one hundred and sixty people took part in this past week's poll, which was open for five days on the right hand sidebar of the website.

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