The county board’s Administration Committee set a poor precedent in deciding to interview candidates for state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s District 6 seat in “executive session” – that is, in secret, out of the public view.
The county attorney, Ellen Coccoma, last week advised the Admin Committee when it interviewed the Republican candidate, Jennifer Mickle, that whether to do so in public or not was optional, up to the reps. To close the door instead of opening it was the wrong way to go.
It was bi-partisan poor judgment, too.
At this past Monday’s Admin meeting to interview the Democratic nominee, Diane Addesso, at least county Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, questioned if darkness should trump light.
Then she said, oh, never mind.
Admin Committee chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, made the motion, and Republicans Ed Frazier and Keith McCarty, and Democrat Andrew Marietta, as well as Martini, went along.
If Mickle, Addesso and Libertarian Andrew Hamill ran for the seat, they would have had to answer questions in public from the public. Why should they get a free ride into Oberacker’s seat without having to tell the public in this limited manner why they want the job and what they would do with it?
After all, when crowned by their fellow representatives, Mickle, Addesso or Hamill would be participating in votes that will have an impact on all of us living in Otsego County.
When this sorry process is over, soul-searching is warranted by all county reps.
The state Committee on Open Government is available to conduct a training session for the board, but it’s as much a question of attitude: Does county government belong to everyone, or to them alone?
SCHENEVUS – After a week of political wrangling, two women – one Republican, one Democrat – have emerged as prospective successors to state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.
The Republican is Jennifer Mickle, an Oneonta businesswoman who lives in the Town of Maryland, where she has chaired the town Board of Assessment Review.
The Democrat is Diane Addesso, former Worcester town supervisor who operates a graphic-design studio there.
County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, who chairs the county board’s Administration Committee, scheduled a special Admin meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30, after Democrats called the process hurried and unfair.
“My goal in having that meeting,” she said Tuesday, Nov. 24, “is to allow the questions and answers for both candidates … even if it doesn’t come to a vote.”
She added, “The process did not allow both sides to be heard, and I’m trying to remedy that.”
What followed was set in motion Monday, Nov. 16, when Oberacker resigned from his District 6 county board seat.
The next evening, county Republican Chairman Vince Casale convened a meeting of District 6 Republican committee members, and they endorsed Mickle, Oberacker’s choice to succeed him.
Wednesday, www.AllOTSEGO.com reported the news, and Democrats responded with dismay that they weren’t briefed. “I had to read about it on AllOTSEGO.com,” one of the Democratic reps said at the Thursday Admin meeting.
That day, Admin Committee members and county reps in attendance from both parties participated in a Zoom interview with Mickle. The committee then voted 3-1, along party lines, to send her name to the full board at its next meeting Dec. 2.
That evening, the county Democratic Committee convened and selected Addesso as its choice to succeed Oberacker. And the next morning, Kennedy announced her decision to vet Addesso as well.
“Hearing from both sides, and giving the opposition ample time to field a candidate and vet them is the right and fair thing to do,” said Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta, on hearing the news.
Casale demurred, saying both Republicans and Democrats knew on Nov. 3, Election Day, that Oberacker would have to resign. “The Democrats are acting as if they are victims to politics, when they are actually victims of their own ineptitude and lack of planning,” he said.
In an interview, Mickle, who operates United Student Rentals with her husband, Ron, and chairs the Northern Otsego Relay for Life Committee, said joining the county board would be “a wonderful opportunity. I’ve always believed in public service and giving back to the community. I hope my experience will not only be a benefit to District 6, but to the county as a whole.”
In another interview, Addesso said that, while Worcester town supervisor, she streamlined polling places from four to one. That, in addition to her predecessor buying a gravel pit as a savings measure, led to a state citation for good governance. Kennedy said she isn’t sure if the second Admin meeting will achieve anything concrete, since the committee has already recommended Mickle to the county board. The committee’s makeup is three Republicans, two Democrats.
An added wrinkle: With Oberacker having resigned, neither Republicans nor Democrat have a majority of votes. If no Democrat will vote with the Republicans, Mickle can be confirmed.
If that happens, County Attorney Ellen Coccoma has ruled the reps would have to petition Governor Cuomo for a special election, but there’s no guarantee he would OK it.
District 6 is considered a Republican district, so if Mickle had to wait until next November’s election, she might have an advantage.
The county Board of Elections reports there are 1,624 Republicans in District 6, compared to 789 Democrats.
However, there are other voting parties as well: Conservatives (72), Working Families (11), Green (13), Libertarian (15), Independence (225), non-affiliated (704) and “other” (3).
WORCESTER – After a five-year renovation, the new Worcester-Schenevus Library opened on Tuesday at 170 Main St. here, Diane Addesso, president, announced today.
A grand opening is planned in mid-May.
The new space is a Victorian former residence built around 1880. The Library’s previous location, a single room in the Wieting Theater, was built by philanthropist Hellen Wilder Wieting in 1910 and expanded to two rooms in 1922.