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News of Otsego County

Ellen Coccoma

Day of Decision Nears on Gun-Sanctuary Vote: Legal Opinion Expected; Resolution In Hand

Day of Decision Nears on Gun-Sanctuary Vote

Legal Opinion Expected; Resolution In Hand

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Dan Wilber
Ellen Coccoma

Pending a legal opinion on proposed gun-sanctuary status for Otsego County, members of the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee are expected to consider a resolution on the matter when it meets at noon Thursday, Dec. 10.

“I haven’t seen that opinion,” county Rep. Andrew Stammel, D-Oneonta, a PSLA member and an attorney, said Monday, Dec. 7. “The goal was to have us review it prior to our meeting.”

County Rep. Rick Brockway, R-West Laurens, who has championed the efforts of the local 2AS movement – the acronym stands for “Second Amendment Sanctuary” – said “as far as I know,” the resolution is up for discussion. While not a PSLA member, he plans to participate in the Zoom meeting.

The PSLA chairman, Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, and County Attorney Ellen Coccoma did not return calls.

The resolution declares, in part, “The Board of Representatives hereby expresses its intent to uphold
the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Otsego County.”

It adds, “The board declares its intent to oppose unconstitutional restriction on the right to keep and bear arms through such legal means as may be expedient, including, without limitation, court action.”

Whatever way the decision goes, the Republicans can make it; the new county rep, Jennifer Mickle, R-Maryland, appointed to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, has been appointed to fill his committee slots, which included the PSLA, as well as Public Works and Intergovernmental Affairs.

The two Democrats, Stammel and Michele Farwell of Morris, voiced opposition to the 2As idea.

“I’m totally against a sanctuary county,” said Stammel. “I think it’s contrary to the rule of law. A lot of people cite the Constitution, but what it really does is undermine the Constitution, (which) lays out laws and how to make laws and enforce laws. This is not the way to do it.”

Farwell isn’t against the idea of discussing change. “If it were a resolution that says rural people need a seat at the table when gun regulation is discussed, then I would be for that resolution.”

But she’s not sure state gun regulations will be adjusted. “Albany already knows what rural New York thinks about the SAFE Act, and they have the polling on their side,” she said.

“If it just reiterates a resolution that already passed in 2013” – when the state Legislature adopted the SAFE Act, considered the most stringent of its kind in the nation, “I don’t see the point. If we start getting to the point where we’re saying Otsego County is going to pick and choose which laws it follows, or enforcing or not, I think that’s a dangerous path.”

Farwell said she’s reached out to two 2AS advocates, including Garrett deBlieck of Unadilla. “I think the folks who signed the petition, at least the leadership, are determined that the county be declared a sanctuary. I think a half-measure isn’t going to be adequate to satisfy them.”

For his part, deBlieck said he’s discussed the sanctuary idea with Wilber, and was told “there are certain areas where there may be some changes.”

“Yes or no, we’re not going to be going anywhere,” he said. “If the board decides no, we aren’t going to fold up our cards and walk away. What good would that do?”

Currently, the 2AS group is seeking non-project status, a vehicle that would allow the campaign to continue into the future.

“We want to be upstanding citizens, but we’re being more and more marginalized,” he said. “And enough is enough. It’s to a point where numbers of people did not want to sign because they didn’t want to put down the names of their towns, much less their names.”

For his part, deBlieck said he’s discussed the sanctuary idea with Wilber, and was told “there are certain areas where there may be some changes.”

Gun Sanctuary Resolution Goes Before Committee

PSLA MEETS THURSDAY

Gun-Sanctuary

Resolution To Go

Before Committee

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

PSLA Chairman Dan Wilber

COOPERSTOWN – Below is the text of the resolution that would declare Otsego County a gun-law sanctuary, where the state’s SAFE Act would not be enforced.

The resolution will be considered Thursday by the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee.  Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, committee chairman, hasn’t been available to discuss the matter.

Scheduled for noon, the meeting may be viewed via Zoom on the county’s Facebook page.

According to other committee members, PSLA has been awaiting a legal opinion from County Attorney Ellen Coccoma.

Here is the resolution:

If You Want Public Office, You Ought To Say Why Publically
Editorial

If You Want Public Office,

You Ought To Say Why Publicly

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?

Public Must Be Included In Commission To Review Sheriff’s, D.A.’s Procedures

Public Must Be Included

In Commission To Review

Sheriff, D.A.’s Procedures

George Floyd Death, Protests Prompted
Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 203

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Bliss
Coccoma

COOPERSTOWN – County board Chairman David Bliss will be appointing a committee of about a dozen people, including members of the public, to review “policies and procedures” at the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department and those governing the district attorney’s investigators.

Bliss and County Attorney Ellen Coccoma yesterday briefed the county board’s Administration Committee, carried on Zoom.  (Follow the link from the “Otsego County” Facebook page.)

Bliss Appointments Reflect ‘Continuity’ 

COUNTY BOARD REORGANIZES

Bliss: Appointments

Aim At ‘Continuity’ 

Meg Kennedy Emerges With New Status

As Chairman Of Both Administration, IGA

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, presides at this morning’s reorganizational meeting. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – She went into today’s reorganizational meeting of the Otsego County Board of Representatives already with the greatest clout under the weighted voting system.

But Meg Kennedy’s rising stature was quickly affirmed.

She was nominated and elected temporary chair of the reorganizational meeting, presiding over the transition of the chairmanship from Kathy Clark, R-Otego, to David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.

And she emerged from the morning’s decision-making as chair of the Administration Committee – Ways & Means, through which all resolutions must flow before getting to the floor of the monthly county board meeting.

County Attorney Affirms Chair’s Right To Name Committee Chairs
CLICK HERE TO READ TEXT OF OPINION

Opinion Affirms Board Chair’s

Right To Name Committee Chairs

COOPERSTOWN – County Attorney Ellen Coccoma today released her opinion sought by county representatives to settle a dispute on naming county Board of Representatives’ committees, and she affirms the status quo.

“The board chair has the authority to appoint committee chairs and …  a committee does not have the authority to choose its own chair,” the county attorney concluded.

Last week, two committees – Health & Education and Performance Review – voted on their chairs after county Rep. David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Otsego, suggested that, since that board chair power is not specifically designated in the board’s bylaws,  it should be governed by Robert’s Rules of Order, which enables committees to elected the chairs.

Gelbsman Assumes Chair Of Admin Without Incident
CHALLENGE TO ‘PAST PRACTICE’ AT END

Gelbsman Assumes Chair

Of Admin Without Incident

Without incident, county Rep. Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, assumed the helm of the county Board of Representatives’ key Administration Committee this morning, signalling an end to questions raised about the board chair appointing committee chairs, at least for this year.  When two of the board’s committees – Health & Education and Performance Review – convenes in the past several days, members voted for their committee chairs.  That occurred after county Rep. David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, observed the board chair appointing committee chairs is not provided for in the board’s bylaws, and thus must be governed by Robert’s Rules of Order.  Bliss said Robert’s Rules call for committees to elect their own chairs, but County Attorney Ellen Coccoma e-mailed an opinion to reps saying her reading of the latest edition gives the appointing officer authority to appoint chairs.  She also reportedly said “past practice” rules.  The initiative may have been motivated, in part, by board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego, removing Len Carson, R-Oneonta, from his Public Safety Committee chairmanship after he challenged her for board chair at the reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.  Gelbsman is flanked by Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, right, and Brian Pokorny, county IT director. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Couple Who Lost Farm To Taxes Sues County

GILBERTSVILLE PROPERTY

Couple Who Lost Farm

To Taxes Sues County

With a protest sign between his knees, Bob Force records this morning's county board meeting in Cooperstown. At right is Marie Ajello. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
With a protest sign between his knees, Bob Force records this morning’s county board meeting in Cooperstown. At right is Marie Ajello. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

county-logoCOOPERSTOWN – The gavel fell in August 2014, but ripples from that Otsego County tax-delinquency auction are still being felt.

A Long Island couple who that day lost their farm in Gilbertsville – their intended retirement home – are now suing the County of Otsego and the county Treasurer’s Office in federal court for what may be more than $15 million in damages.

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