COUNTY BOARD EXPLODES OVER MANAGER MOVE

READ TEXT OF TODAY’S RESOLUTION

COUNTY BOARD

EXPLODES OVER

MANAGER MOVE

Marietta’s Resolution From Floor

‘Disrespectful,’ Frazier Declares

Chiding Democrat Marietta for seeking a decision on moving toward hiring a county manager are, from left, Republicans Dan Wilber of Burlington, Ed Frazier of Unadilla, and Kathy Clark of Otego, the board chair. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

County Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, rises to make what turned out to be a controversial motion. Seated is Meg Kennedy, R-Mount Vision.

COOPERSTOWN – County Rep. Andrew Marietta’s attempt to introduce a resolution to hire a county manager quickly blew up into high drama and parliamentary gamesmanship a today’s county Board of Representatives meeting.

The vote itself was quickly derailed.

Marietta made a motion, Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, seconded it, and Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, with some prompting from County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, quickly said, “I’m objecting to the presentation of the resolution.”

Frazier’s objection, according to Coccoma’s ruling, required a two-third vote for the resolution to move forward.

The 7-5 vote favored the resolution.  But the weighted vote went the other way, 3,408 against versus 2,856 for.  Either measure, though, fell short of the two-thirds mark.

The seven aye votes included Republicans – Jim Powers of Butternuts, Len Carson of Oneonta, Dave Bliss of Cooperstown – plus the board’s four Democrats.  (A fourth Republican Marietta said also supported, Peter Oberacker of Schenevus, was absent.)

Then the recriminations began.

“I thought you disrespected the process.  I thought you disrespected me,” said Frazier.  Although Marietta has expressed a contrary view, Frazier said, “None of us would have rejected the resolution.”

He noted that the county’s strategic plan includes “27 immediate” action steps.  “This was not one of them.”

County Rep. Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, says she ran for county board 10 years ago on the issue of creating a county-manager position. Seated next to her is Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta.

However, Frazier said after the meeting that he would agree to discussing a county-manager resolution if it came before the Administration Committee, on which he serves.

Other Republicans – chairman Kathy Clark of Otego, Dan Wilber of Burlington and Meg Kennedy of Mount Vision – joined Frazier in chiding Marietta, saying the resolution should have come through the regular order, from a committee to the Admin Committee to the full board.

Noting the back and forth had gotten “heated and personal,” Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta, spoke up.  He noted proposing a resolution directly from the floor “is a provided technique.  We think something is not being done in committee that should have been done in committee.”

“Hopefully,” he said, “it” – action on a county manager – “is on the radar.”

Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, called a resolution from the floor “a legitimate process.”

And Kay Stuligross, D-Oneonta, noted she, as a League of Women Voters participant, has been working for a county manager for 35 years, and first ran 10 years ago with the idea of getting it implemented.

For his part, Marietta said the county board’s unwieldy committee structure isn’t working.  “We can’t move forward on the work we want to do,” he said.  “We are part-time people trying to make it work, but it’s just not working.”

As it happens, this issue arose after what turned out to be a very relevant discussion, on the failure of the county board to do a compensation study.

Koutnik, Human Services Committee chair, sought to move a resolution raising three managers’ salaries to $55,000 a year, but his colleagues objected, saying the raises should be part of an across-the-board program.

Koutnik replied that Otsego County has fallen so far behind the norm for paying professionals – 25 percent, or approximately $12,000 a year – that it’s become a “laughing stock” among people in the know.

When department heads leave, the county finds itself paying well above par just to fill the vacancies – an assistant director at the Office on Aging was brought aboard at $60,000 in recent days.  An assistant highway superintendent cost $80,000 last year.

Carson – he said some department heads have gotten just one raise in nine years – defined the problem as “kicking the can down the road.  It’s a large can now.”  But Wilber expressed the alternate sentiment, “I just don’t believe this” – a case-by-case approach – “is the way to do it.”

Leading up to the introduction of his resolution, Marietta had defined the failure of an adequate compensation system as one of many “perpetual issues” that are never resolved.  “We’re learning this the hard way,” he said.

In an interview earlier this week, Marietta said he hoped to have money to hire a county manager included in the 2018 budget, removing a tough vote for the new board that will be taking office Jan. 1.

Despite today’s dust-up, it appeared the county-manager idea is not dead.  “I did not hear any one person say today, ‘I am against it,’” said Kennedy, who along with Frazier and Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, who was absent, from the troika of chairman Clark’s allies.


One thought on “COUNTY BOARD EXPLODES OVER MANAGER MOVE

  1. Doug Kendall

    Well, it’s nothing new for folks (even County Representatives) to realize that Otsego County government is a rudderless mess where the Chairman is more beholden to 523 voters in a district that to the County as a whole. However, the notion that the answer to this problem is to hire a highly-paid bureaucrat who will have the entire County Board as his/her boss is seriously misguided (remember, the County Board will not pay current employees a reasonable salary – why should they give a 6-figure salary to a County Manager?).

    The problem is that there is no County-wide elected official who is given clear responsibility as the Chief Executive of the county. You have two excellent examples of failure in the paid administrator realm nearby – the City of Oneonta and Cortland County. Do we need a County Executive? Yes but the voters of the County should decide who that person is, so that the County Executive is responsible to the voters directly.

    (In addition, let’s finally redistrict in such a way that the ridiculous weighted-vote system can be consigned to the rubbish bin of history.)

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