Dan Hust | Democrat
County Manager Josh Potosek signs his three-year employment agreement while Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson (standing) and Legislator Alan Sorensen watch on Thursday. The Legislature had just unanimously approved the agreement, which spells out Potosek’s pay, authority and termination process.
Neither light nor heat shed on Electrical Licensing Board future
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO January 21, 2014 Beyond the controversy over adding Sheriff’s deputies, Thursday’s Legislature meetings featured several noteworthy discussions and votes.
What’s the ELB to do?
The county’s defunct Electrical Licensing Board (ELB) will be resurrected as a review panel to determine what ultimately to do with the ELB.
Though it hasn’t met for two years, the ELB is tasked with licensing electrical contractors to do work in the county, per a requirement of an old county law.
Licenses have continued to be handed out despite the ELB’s moribund state, but all the interested parties seem to agree that its future needs to be resolved.
A resolution was approved by legislators Thursday to create a seven-member Temporary Electrical Licensing Advisory Panel, which will meet until July to research options and make recommendations.
They’ll consider whether the ELB should be reconstituted with more enforcement of the rules, disbanded entirely and the licensure law stricken from the books, or be empowered to act solely as a testing/license conduit, without enforcement obligations.
With casinos and other large projects on the horizon, “we cannot be in this kind of limbo,” said Legislator Cora Edwards, who’s been leading the effort to resolve the ELB question.
Legislator Ira Steingart was the lone opposing vote, saying afterwards that he feels a review panel is unnecessary and would prefer the ELB itself be restored to make recommendations about its own future.
Regardless, Edwards said the Legislature is seeking panel members. Candidates can contact Legislature Clerk Annmarie Martin at 807-0435 or email her at annmarie.martin@ co.sullivan.ny.us.
In the meantime, legislators agreed that anyone who’s paid the $100 for a 2014 license should receive one.
‘A bad message’
Legislators Kitty Vetter and Cindy Gieger agreed with Cora Edwards Thursday that approving a legal firm’s near-doubling of pay was not wise.
“I’m going to reiterate that I think it sends a bad message,” Edwards said.
Nevertheless, the six other legislators agreed to pay Roemer, Wallens, Gold and Mineaux LLP an additional $5,000 beyond the originally-agreed $5,000 cap for attorney Jim Roemer’s investigation of and report on staff complaints inside the Dept. of Family Services.
Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson pointed out that Roemer had reduced his initial $13,533 bill to $9,881 “in consideration of the county’s financial situation and the ongoing relationship between the county and the firm,” according to the resolution.
The county had already paid Roemer, its longtime labor attorney, $4,881 for his work on the matter, leaving the $5,000 to be approved this past Thursday.
His report, however, remains confidential by law, even to legislators.
Picking the best
Legislators unanimously agreed Thursday to set a public hearing on a proposed “best value purchasing policy.”
Such a policy is now allowed by the state and would permit the county to take into account a variety of factors beyond just a low bid like a product’s craftsmanship and durability, plus the location of the goods/services provider.
Legislator Cindy Gieger wondered how such criteria would be fairly judged.
“We’d have to do an objective study,” Purchasing Director Kathy Jones replied.
That, she added, would require more than the four people in her office currently.
Thus, legislators aren’t committing themselves to the law yet.
They’ll vote on it after a public hearing set for February 20 at 1:50 p.m., just before the regular full Legislature meeting at the Government Center in Monticello.
Potosek is ‘official’
Legislators unanimously agreed on Thursday to County Manager Josh Potosek’s employment agreement, the final step in permanently retaining him in that position.
The three-year agreement stipulates that Potosek will be paid $144,837 per year, plus benefits, the reimbursement of business and conference expenses, and the use of a county vehicle (including to and from his Livingston Manor home) equipped with a two-way radio.
Avoiding a controversy that erupted with Potosek’s predecessor, the agreement states that Potosek can be fired by a simple majority vote of the Legislature (minimum five legislators).
If the termination is for cause, Potosek is entitled to a written list of reasons and has 30 days to respond, with witnesses if he so chooses.
If the termination is without cause (or the county manager form of government changes), Potosek is entitled to 30 days’ written notice and a check equal to six months’ salary.
Potosek himself can voluntarily depart with 60 days’ notice. He’s automatically removed if he cannot serve for 90 consecutive days.
Who to put on the IDA?
Though resumés aren’t due till February 6, the county already has at least seven candidates for the two empty seats on the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Board.
And legislators are already debating who to appoint.
“I think we need to have true, objective criteria” of what’s wanted in an appointee, Legislator Kitty Vetter said.
“First, do they have the ability to understand what they’re reviewing?” offered IDA Board Chair and Legislator Ira Steingart, referring to a knowledge of financial statements and cost-benefit analyses.
“I’m advocating for someone who has knowledge of sustainability,” remarked Legislator Cindy Gieger, “... to kind of wrap in sustainability with the benefits [the IDA provides to eligible businesses]. ... What we’re looking for is a new vision.”
“You can’t just do a cookie-cutter set of guidelines,” argued Legislator Gene Benson, who preferred to wait until applicants could be interviewed.
Legislator Alan Sorensen thought it would be a good idea to add at least one more legislator to the board, as he felt elected officials would be particularly mindful of taxpayers’ funds that enable the IDA to offer incentives.
Legislator Jonathan Rouis, however, cautioned his colleagues to avoid politicizing the process.
Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson asked all to provide him with a list of criteria to consider.