Legislature votes to refill vacant positions
YATES COUNTY—The Yates County legislature voted to refill a vacant criminal investigator position and a deputy sheriff position during their regular meeting Monday, Feb. 11. The criminal investigator position will be filled through the promotion of a current deputy sheriff, whose then vacated position will be filled through hiring. Legislators Douglas Paddock, Mark Morris and Leslie Church voted against filling the criminal investigator position and Robert Schwarting, Rick Willson, Paddock, Morris and Church voted against filling the then vacant deputy sheriff position.
Resident Gary Montgomery spoke against filling the positions, encouraging the legislators to use it as an opportunity to not hire someone they may have to fire later.
“Adding employees is not something we ought to be doing,” Montgomery said.
County Chairman Taylor Fitch said both the positions are already budgeted for 2013, and they are only moving somebody into the vacant investigator position due to a retirement. He stressed no new positions were being created and it would not have an effect on the county tax bill.
Paddock made a motion to amend both positions to being temporary full-time positions in order to delay filling the position permanently until seeing the final results of a study of the sheriff’s department. Paddock said upon learning the study was going to be taking place sooner rather than later, it would be prudent to wait. He said if they fill the positions now, it will be going back to business as usual and not looking at any creative ways to save money like they said they would in December.
Legislator Donna Alexander said she feels the position needs to be full-time due to its extensive work investigating welfare fraud for the Department of Social Services (DSS). Legislator Robert Multer agreed, saying he does not know anybody who would go through the training and work for either position on only a temporary basis. Legislator Daniel Banach, who had voted against the measure in the public safety committee meeting, changed his mind after a discussion with Penn Yan Mayor Bob Church who Banach said thinks the village needs a full-time investigator.
County Administrator Sarah Purdy said the last time Yates County had operated with only two criminal investigators was in 1979, and crime has risen considerably in Yates County since then.
When it came time to vote on filling the deputy sheriff position, Legislator Tim Dennis moved to table it, saying he does not think the position needs to be filled until the completion of the study.
“This is not something that needs to be done,” Dennis said.
Schwarting brought up the issue of overtime, saying the legislature needs to adopt policies that better manages overtime in county departments. Fitch replied, “I don’t think we are in a position to micromanage the sheriff’s department.”
Purdy said any policy on overtime would need to be negotiated with Council 82, and a lot of domestic violence calls, which require a response from two officers, occur during times when there is less than optimal staffing on road patrol.
“In order to support the sheriff and officer safety, you will need to allow overtime to go up if this position is not filled,” Purdy said.
Fitch said he does not think the legislature knows enough to tell the sheriff what to do.
“I think this bashing of the public safety department is over the top,” Fitch said.
Church responded by saying she does not think it is an illegitimate request to wait until the sheriff’s study is completed before making a permanent decision on the matter.
“I don’t think waiting for the report is going to be bashing the sheriff’s department,” Church said. “I support law enforcement, but I think we have to be very conscious when moving forward with our budget.”
In other business:
• The legislature unanimously voted to oppose the process for enactment of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act passed by the state legislature, calling the law “hastily processed.” While the legislature agreed with some provisions of the act like mental health requirements for gun ownership and increased penalties for criminals, they said it is being viewed as an infringement upon the second amendment rights of citizens.
• The legislature passed a local law allowing Yates County public officers to reside out of county. This law would supersede the current Public Officers Law which requires officers to reside in the county they serve. While Dennis said he would like to see as much money as possible remain in Yates County, the measure passed with only two votes against.
• The legislature set a public hearing on a local law renewing a 4 percent occupancy tax passed by the county in 2007. the public hearing is scheduled for the next regular meeting of the legislature Monday, March 11 at 1 p.m. The legislature also is requesting the state legislature approve a renewal of the 1 percent sales tax increase passed in 2003 which has generated approximately an additional $2 million in county revenue per year.