Putnam Legislators Consider Rule Change

Also, deputy county executive leaves for energy department

By Holly Crocco

Putnam County lawmakers are discussing a change that would allow them to discuss “additional” information on short notice.

These materials are typically data, emails, opinions and other background information about an item on the agenda that were not included in the paperwork shared with the public before a meeting.

The legislative manual requires that additional items be approved by a unanimous vote. However, the Rules Committee voted Nov. 15 to send a resolution to the full body that would require affixing additional material be approved only by two of three votes at the committee level and six of nine votes in the full body.

The requirement for unanimous approval “has proven over time to be cumbersome, inefficient, unduly burdensome and unnecessary,” the resolution reads.

The Putnam County Legislature

“If the majority sees fit to keep things moving, there’s no reason to delay it,” said Carl Albano (R-Carmel) at the Nov. 15 meeting. “In the seven years I’ve been here, I have not seen a time where we’ve held something off as additional where the next time it came up there was any advantage to it. It was only a delay and a waste of time.”

Dini LoBue (R-Mahopac Falls), who lost in the primary election and will be leaving office Dec. 31, spoke vehemently against the proposal, saying it made the work of the legislature less transparent.

“I certainly don’t support it at the full [meeting], because then you have the ability to change the agenda without the public being notified in advance,” she said.

She argued that if pertinent information is received by lawmakers, the matter should go back to committee to give the public the chance to weigh in.

“That is bad government on every level,” she said. “Nothing that has been done in haste or on an emergency basis has been in the best interest of the county.”

Energy Secretary Rick Perry swears in Bruce Walker (Photo provided)

Walker Leaves County for Federal Job
Odell won’t fill vacancy in 2018

Bruce Walker has resigned as Putnam’s deputy county executive to become an assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Walker had been part of County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s administration since she took office in 2011. She said she would not fill the vacant position in 2018, which she said would save the county $175,495 in salary, benefits, pension and employer expenses.

The focus of Walker’s new job will be to modernize the electric grid, enhance the security and reliability of infrastructure and improve recovery from disruptions to the energy supply.

Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson), who chairs the legislature, responded that “one person holding up moving things forward” isn’t good for the process. “I don’t think the intent is to try to hide or not be transparent. Our intent is to be more effective and efficient.”

Joseph Castellano (R-Southeast) said “it’s only information” that is provided to legislators at the last minute. “It’s not like we’re putting a new item on the agenda.”

The frustration among legislators came to a head at a Sept. 14 meeting during a discussion of the 15-year lease agreement for the senior center at the Butterfield site in Cold Spring. The legislators received a last-minute, relatively minor amendment to the lease that Legislative Counsel Clement Van Ross said required unanimous approval to be considered. After LoBue voted “no,” the legislature had to schedule another meeting to meet the required 48 hours’ notice.

Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown) called Van Ross’s ruling on the matter “an atrocity” and Nacerino termed it “splitting hairs.” The lawyer, who had been with the county for nearly 30 years, was relieved of his duties in January.

One thought on “Putnam Legislators Consider Rule Change

  1. Not one thing that these legislators do is to benefit the taxpayers and citizens of Putnam. They exist in a bubble where they have well paid, no-show jobs that they are not qualified to hold.

    So now our legislators want to pretend that they’re concerned about communication and public discussion of important items. What a sick joke. Try calling, writing a letter or sending one of them an email and see where that gets you. I guarantee you there will be no response, regardless of how urgent the matter is. Also, try speaking at one of their meetings and see how rude they are to members of the public who want to ask questions of their public servants.

    It has been my experience in years of dealing with the Legislature that the only way you can get important information is to file a FOIL request and even then they will fight you tooth and nail if it’s damaging to them or their agenda.

    Dini LoBue is right: this latest ploy is just an excuse for them to amend the agenda in secret to discourage public participation.

    If the people of this county ever wake up, maybe they will realize what a huge mistake it was to abolish the Board of Supervisors. The government we have now is simply not working.