The amiable Dave Bliss, who is entering his second year as chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, patently has achieved his first goal: A “change of culture” toward a more amiable atmosphere.
“I believe we have a working relationship with departments heads and other board members,” the former 24-year Middlefield town supervisor, a Republican, said in an interview assessing his first year at the helm, and looking ahead to the second.
“Democrats and Republicans are evenly split – we need to work together.”
A case in point surfaced at the county board’s organizational meeting on Jan. 2, where Bliss was reelected by a 12-2 vote.
Each month there’s a consent agenda that lumps together a few dozen routine resolutions so they can be taken care of in one vote – a huge time saver in a usually lengthy meeting.
But any county rep can ask that any resolution be removed for individual debate, as Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, sensibly did in this case on the “Climate Smart Communities Pledge,” which NYSERDA is encouraging local governments to adopt.
COOPERSTOWN – As one, county representatives bowed their heads for a “moment of silence” at this morning’s meeting in remembrance of John D. Heller, the former OFD on-call firefighter who died Saturday, Dec. 29, in a fire on Oneonta’s Walling Avenue.
County Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Town of Burlington, proposed the observance, noting Heller’s heroism: His sister-in-law said he died while rescuing his four nephews and fiance from the flames.
In a related development, Oneonta Police Chief Douglas Brenner and Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon scheduled a press conference at 5 p.m. to provide “an update on the investigation.”
COOPERSTOWN – The county Board of Representatives heard a message this morning: Prepared to be sued.
First, Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham appeared at the county board’s monthly meeting with a letter, prepared by Attorney Doug Zamelis of Springfield Center, demanding it withdraw a grant application for a gas decompression plant in the Town of Oneonta.
A letter to the editor the other week drew on the Biblical injunction, “The son shall not suffer for the sins of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquities of the son.” And surely that’s as it should be.
That said, it’s legitimate for open-minded citizens to question how county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. has handled the situation involving his son, Ros, a correctional officer in the jail his father administers since it surfaced in January 2017. At the least, the situation is an awkward one; at worst, a dangerous one.
In effect, according
to a court decision on a
related matter made public on March 31, 2017, Ros Devlin told a fellow C-O he was thinking of committing suicide in front of his disciplining supervisor at the county jail, after first creating a diversion by shooting up an Oneonta or Milford school. (To read the decision for yourself, type “devlin judge’s order” in the search line at www.AllOTSEGO.com)
From the beginning, the sheriff has stood steadfastly by his son, who was suspended for more than a year – albeit, with pay; since March, without pay – by the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
The sheriff claimed a “witchhunt” was in progress; that his downfall was intended, not his son’s.
If Ezekiel was right
about sons and fathers, his declaration should be equally valid for wives
That said, it’s legitimate for open-minded citizens to question the role of Kathy Clark, R-Otego, former county board chair – and a tough-minded and determined one – in engineering her husband, Bob Fernandez’s, challenge to Devlin after Fernandez’s retirement from the state police.
In New York State, the sheriff’s position – as with county clerk – is a constitutional office, filled by election, not appointment by a county board. There’s good reason for ensuring a sheriff’s independence: to keep law enforcement and politics separate.
Clark championing of her husband sought to breach that sensible divide.
Further problematic was the engineering of Fernandez’s Democratic endorsement. It grew out of a longtime personal friendship between Kathy Clark and Oneonta’s former Democratic mayor, Kim Muller, who for the time being is county Democratic chair. (She expects to step down when the county committee meets in early October.)
There’s no secret. Both acknowledge close ties between their families going back decades, when their children played in the same soccer league. Still, as you can imagine, the Fernandez endorsement has caused a rift among the Democratic rank and file.
For his part, Devlin has argued he didn’t trust the county board, under Kathy Clark’s chairmanship, to fairly investigate his son.
To his credit, when David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, succeeded Clark this past Jan. 3, Devlin then reached out to Bliss, and in March agreed to recuse himself, allowing the board chair to order a medical examination of the son to determine if he is fit to continue as a jail guard.
The good news is: A process is in place. In interview this week, Bliss said the medical examination by a downstate physician who specializes in matters involving law-enforcement personnel is expected by mid-month.
Once the report is submitted, Bliss, in consultation with the county’s personnel lawyers and County Attorney Ellen Coccoma will decide on an appropriate course of action. He said he will keep county reps advised of developments and welcome inputs.
If the decision is made to discipline Ros Devlin, “the officer still has rights,” the board chair said. The younger Devlin could challenge any decision in court. Meanwhile, he will remain off the job without pay.
The bad news, from the perspective if the electorate, it’s unlikely the situation will be resolved before the Nov. 6 general election, Bliss said.
All this matters right now because the first match-up between Devlin and Fernandez comes Thursday, Sept. 13, in a local Republican primary. (That’s Thursday, not Tuesday, which is 9/11 and Rosh Hashanah.) The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. across Otsego County for registered Republicans.
The vote will not necessarily settle anything. If Devlin, endorsed by the Republican county committee last March, wins, Fernandez has the Democratic county committee endorsement; he will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot anyhow.
If Fernandez were to win the Republican primary, Devlin would still appear on three lines – Conservative, Independent and Reform – on the November ballot.
The world is an imperfect place, as we know from our lives and experiences. We often have to choose between imperfect options, and this is one of those cases.
Yet, on the one hand, there is due process, independent of Sheriff Devlin’s control, that we can hope will resolve thinking people’s concerns – either clearing Ros Devlin, or removing him from his position permanently.
On the other hand, there is no due process, only cronyism and the potential that an alliance between husband and wife will inject politics into law enforcement.
For now, the only option is to vote for due process. For the time being, that option is Richard J. Devlin Jr.
INDEX – County Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, targeted for defeat by the county Republican Party, has emerged victorious this evening, 630-417, a decisive margin over Republican Tim Walker.
Democrats packed into The Shack on Route 28 here are claiming victory in the City of Oneonta seats on the county board, but it was unclear if these results were official.
AAS in Fire Science, Corning Community College, Corning, NY
(42) National and/or NYS Certified course materials
United States Air Force: 1983-1987 ( Active) & 1990-1992 (Reserve)
Owner of Construction Technology: 1990-2000
City of Oneonta Fire Department: 1989-2015 (Call, PT, Provisional, Career)
NYS Fire Service Instructor: 2008-2015
Co-owner of DCMarketing: 2011-present
Otsego County Board Representative: 2016-present
Scout Leader with Troop 23: 1988-1992
City of Oneonta Pee Wee Football: 1996-2004
City of Oneonta Little League Baseball: 2000-2002
City of Oneonta Airport Commission: 2012-present
American Legion Oneonta Post 259: 2010-present
-Commander of Post 259: 2011-present
Otsego County American Legion Boys State Chairman-2015-present
City of Oneonta Memorial Day Parade Chairman: 2013-present
Wife, Dellene Carson
Joshua & Octavia Carson
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT:
To provide an egalitarian environment for its people, by being small, nimble and providing a business-friendly environment. By doing so, our communities will grow, prosper and provide the services that they need.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING OTSEGO COUNTY:
Lack of Economic Development- from creating more of an opportunity for our existing businesses to attracting others. We need to strengthen our partnership with Otsego Now and our NYS Representatives by open communications focusing on a single vision.
Unfunded mandates from New York State Government
–Medicaid, NYS DMV, DOH are a few examples. The Medicaid unfunded mandates accounts for $0.90 from every $1.00 collected on the tax levy.
Lack of a County Manager or Executive
–Board Representatives are consumed with managing Department Heads rather than implementation of the Strategic Plan; which provides the vision and direction of our county. This would also provide the opportunity to improve our relationships/partnerships with municipalities within our county.
Improving existing infrastructure- county roads and bridges
Updating the Emergency Services training center
–the burn-building has not been expanded or improved upon in more than three decades
–finalize the 911 Communication system
–more towers are needed
Development of documentation scanning and record-keeping for all departments
Partner with other counties on priority issues like Broadband and upgrades for existing natural gas pipelines.
Strengthen our Agriculture environment-creating a footprint for the Farmer Markets that can be used all year. This allows our local farm businesses to increase revenue by growing product(s) year around.
Staggered terms for Representatives and extend the term to 4 years. In 2016, seven new Board Reps were elected; this does not provide continuity for Department Heads or our constituents.
During 2016, I chaired Public Safety Legal Affairs, our 911 Director pointed out a loophole with regards to wireless phone services. Those without a contract, did not pay for 911 services as those of us with land lines and wireless phone contracts did. A resolution was passed by Otsego County legislators, this item was carried to and passed both the Assembly and Senate. This passage will mean more revenue to maintain our 911 Communication system.
Working with DSS Commissioner, Eve Bouboulis, a new model for housing our homeless was adopted and will save our county taxpayers more than $100k annually. More needs to be done with this issue and we are currently studying the “Tiny Home” concept to see if this can be applied to our current and future needs of homeless.
This concept has the possibility to reduce our local-share cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide the service needed.
Currently, our local municipalities are on their own to provide healthcare insurance for their employees. This methodology is expensive and does not provide annual cost stability. Partnering with our current and future County Treasurer, I have been hosting Town Hall meetings, introducing the Otsego County Healthcare Insurance Consortium. Basically, creating a insurance company, under NYS Article 47, for all municipal employees and providing a long-term healthcare insurance financial stability. Our smaller communities will see annual savings of 15-20% and over all, the county taxpayers could realize $1M to $1.4M annual savings. We will need to stay focused and follow through on the process during 2018 to recognize a start date of January 1, 2019.
I have enjoyed working for my neighbors in the 5th and 6th Wards, City of Oneonta and Otsego County residents in my first term. I hope you agree, my thirty-four (34) years of public service as a soldier, firefighter, community member and Otsego County representative has provided me the knowledge, experience and connections to serve our county residences with the leadership it deserves.
COOPERSTOWN – A court action was filed today on behalf of county Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, seeking to reclaim the “I Love Otsego” independent line on the Nov. 8 ballot from his Republican challenger, Tim Walker.
Marietta’s lawyer, Dennis Laughlin, said the local county judges, Brian Burns and John Lambert, recused themselves, and the case was assigned to state Supreme Court Judge Jeffrey Tait in Binghamton, who will review the papers and set a hearing date.
COOPERSTOWN – After hearing objections from the public, the county Board of Representatives this morning pulled a resolution that would have supported U.S. Rep. John Faso’s amendment requiring the State of New York to absorb any additional costs of federal Medicaid cuts, rather than passing them along to counties.
Constituents were lined up out into the hallway outside the County Board’s chamber on the second floor of the county Office Building as Dr. Chris Kjolhede, co-director of Bassett’s School-Based Health Program, suggested the so-called Faso-Collins amendment, by making the Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA) more palatable, is threatening the county’s most vulnerable citizens.
ONEONTA – Former Seventh Ward Council member Lizabeth Shannon has announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination for the Otsego County Board of Representatives in the 14th District.
Shannon graduated from Oneonta High School in 1979 and Philadelphia University in 1984, relocating back to her hometown in 2003. From 2008-11, she served as the Council member for the Seventh Ward and was a co-founder of Oneonta’s successful Fabulous First Friday cultural events.
OTEGO – SUNY Oneonta professor Cathy Nardi has announced her intention to run for the District 3 seat on the Otsego County Board, challenging board chair Kathy Clark.
“I want to be the voice of reason in a climate of chaos,” she said.
Nardi, an Otego resident, would be representing Laurens and Otego. Her platform includes environmental issues, access to education and economic development, including developing tourism in her district, to help fight poverty.