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Monday, March 15, 2010

Spain's New Hesitance

We heard a lot of comments as to why Councilman Al Spain tried to have an up or down vote on the Supervisor's proposed Resolution which sought to have the appointing authorities in Rensselaer County government examine their appointees refusal to correct and update a long outdated job description for town engineer.

The appointees are the three members of the Rensselaer County Civil Service Commission and the appointing authorities charged with their oversight are the County Executive and County Legislature. Supervisor Ashworth's solution was to ask the appointing authorities to look at the situation and perhaps ask the same questions we in North Greenbush are asking. Why haven't you corrected the obvious defects in a long outdated job description?

Ashworth's reasoning in likely based on the facts that after more than two years since the town took the Commission to court in an effort to make them fix it, they have done nothing. They even refused to act on a request by Councilman Spain to update the job description, leaving this town and all county towns in the same dilemma. They can't advertise the qualifications for a position to hire someone when the job description is so ambiguous, no one knows what the qualifications really are.

A judge evidently misunderstood a key component of the town's complaint when he rule the Commission is within its rights to require a 4 year degree for the position. The problem however is that the Commission failed to state a what type of degree was required, 2 year, 4 year, Master's, etc., leaving those who read it scratching their heads in disbelief.

But why did Al Spain try to insist on an up or down vote on the Resolution as presented rather than accept a routine tabling of the Resolution until another effort was made to move the Commission to correct the problem without asking the oversight authority in county government to look into it? This is especially perplexing since Spain himself was rebuffed in an effort to get the Commission to correct the errors in the job description.

We think the answer rests in Al Spain's desire to curry favor with his Republican masters in Rensselaer County. These are the same folks who recently tried to get him appointed as the Democratic representative on the County Ethics Board much to the dismay of the County's Democratic Legislators, all of whom refused to support his nomination.

Spain probably wanted to protect the Republicans in County government from any sticky issues arising from an effort to exercise their oversight authority over 3 political appointees they placed in charge of the Civil Service Commission. Perhaps he thought such a resolution would draw too much attention to the fact that the Commission is not doing its job at least in this matter.

Hopefully, County Legislators and the County Executive understand that when a part of government fails to do its job, they cease to serve the public interest. If the elected officials put in place to appoint and oversee the actions of those placed in positions of authority are not made aware of potential failures, they cannot do the job they were elected to do. Ashworth's resolution would simply have told elected officals that this agency is failing to do its job and hopefully, they would have acted to find out why.

So if this agency fails to take corrective action, the Resolution tabled last week may have to be revisited in the hope that elected officials at the county level can exercise proper oversight of their appointees which might just allow towns like North Greenbush to properly understand the qualification required for a town engineer and advertise accordingly for applicants for the position. Until clarity is provided, North Greenbush is unable to advertise for a town engineer because the job description being imposed by the County Civil Service Commission makes as much sense as a screen door in a submarine.

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