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Usual meeting turns into unusual debate ADVERTISEMENT

Usual meeting turns into unusual debate

WATKINS GLEN--The Schuyler County Legislature met for its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, March 13 with four visitors present. The legislature passed a series of operational resolutions without discussion but then debated at length on the correction of the legislature minutes from the Jan. 4 meeting when Dennis Fagan was elected as chairman.
In a 4-3-1 vote Monday night, the legislature defeated a motion calling for the correction of the Jan. 4 minutes.
The detail of the debate includes the following:
Legislator Van Harp said his vote had been recorded in favor of electing Fagan as chairman when in fact, he had voted against him. Legislators Michael Lausell, Harp and James Howell all recalled Harp voting against Fagan and voted to correct the minutes. Legislator Barbara Halpin said she did not recall the vote but voted against the correction because she trusted the clerk. Legislator Mark Rondinaro said he had to abstain because he could not recall the vote. Fagan and Barnes maintained Harp voted for Fagan. Legislative Clerk Stacy Husted stated she had discussed the vote the morning after the meeting with the county attorney, the county administrator and the deputy clerk and made sure their recollection was the same. Attorney Steve Getman responded, "I never asked if our recollection was the same." The legislature voted to accept the minutes as originally submitted.
Lausell then referenced a previous error in the Aug. 11, 2014 minutes concerning Fagan's involvement with his former company, Fagan Engineering. Lausell stated despite Fagan's assurances to the entire legislature that he had no remaining financial interest in the company, Fagan admitted "payments are being made over time" in response to a community member's question. Lausell said the discrepancy should have been investigated but instead, the minutes gave the false impression that payments had been made in the past. Lausell stated he had objected to the inaccuracy and the minutes were corrected.
Lausell read and submitted his statement for the record. He said, "The magnitude of either error demands our attention. Neither should be summarily dismissed as mere carelessness. This legislature reads every resolution carefully before voting and in committee we make thoughtful changes, down to the last comma or misspelling. I expect you all must give the same careful reading to our draft minutes before voting to approve them. When we vote to approve minutes we give them the weight and certainty of fact. By our approval they become the official history of our legislature. That is a duty we should not take lightly."
In other business at the meeting, during visitor comments, Ron Koniz of Burdett spoke about the negative impact the proposed federal health care law could have on Schuyler County and indicated Medicaid costs could rise. Koniz offered a financial analysis that indicated a financial detriment to lower and middle income families while benefiting the wealthy.
Chairman Fagan commented that there has been little action from the governor concerning unfunded mandates. According to Tim O'Hearn, the county is facing tens of thousands of dollars of increased costs related to New York state raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. The legislature passed a resolution insisting that the state pay all costs of enacting the new legislation. In other business, the legislature voted to increase the of hours for the assistant county attorney to full time. The position is currently vacant and will be advertised immediately.
The legislature voted to add two seasonal laborers for a total of six, reduce the hours of all laborers to 27 a week, and increase the pay from $12.50 to $13.50.

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