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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Desso Abstains From County Vote

What do you do after abstaining from a routine vote at the county legislature in Troy because you fear you might have a conflict voting when you hold another elective office on a town board? Why, just grab lolly pop and suck on it when you rush back to North Greenbush to attend a town finance committee meeting. That's our own Lou Desso above, in the middle, sucking a big Tootsie Pop that comes with all the stress of collecting two public paychecks. (He was probably sucking a different one at the county legislature!)

It was a routine revenue resolution in which the county approves the payment of revenues to the towns. For Lou Desso, however, it turned into an admission that he holds a conflicting elective office because rather than voting for or against the routine revenue bill, he abstained to avoid the perception he had a conflict by voting on it.

Desso claimed he sought legal counsel and that he was informed he could vote on it. Sage advice if you want voters to believe there is no conflict holding both a legislative seat and a town board seat. Trouble is, Desso didn't follow the legal advice and instead abstained on the vote to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest and criticism he said might arise he if voted on the bill.

Well, Mr. Desso can spin his holding of two conflicting elective offices any way he wants. His colleague Mr. Cristo tried it in East Greenbush this past election and finished dead last in the race for a town board seat he was removed from. But what you don't do is claim there is no conflict in holding two elective offices then abstain from vote because there is a conflict, at least in the mind of Lou Desso.

The Town Budget

Last night the town's budget advisory committee met and served up a series of recommendations, undoubtedly planted by Councilman Al Spain who wants to restore some budget cuts made by the Supervisor in her Tentative Budget. Al wants to restore money to keep some of his allies on the town gravy train. They include keeping his friend Mr. Harkin, the Assessor, at full time instead of the modest 3/4 time recommended by the Supervisor. Ironically, the Supervisor's recommended cut simply pays Harkin for the time he actually puts in each week rather than the time he's paid for. It's no secret he mossies into work well after his 9AM start time most days. He can do that because there is no time clock for him to punch any more than there is one down the hall in the Building Department where it's anyone's guess who really supervises the time or work.

It was on that subject of Building Department Supervision that caught our attention. One committee member astutely said there's a problem with supervision there and we really need a manager to watch over the employees and their performance, time etc. It's really a problem , he thought, when Mr. Miner, the apparent manager of the department , is out in the field, leaving no one in charge of the office. But this committee member must have forgotten that when a prior town board tried to put a manager in charge of the department, the employees threw a fit. They got their union involved and bulls...ted Civil Service into disapproving the job title. They remain unsupervised to this day with the head of the department a member of the same employee union he is supposed to be managing. You can't properly manage employees when you're a member of the vary same union bargaining unit they belong to. Nor can the town properly ensure accountability absent a time clock for all.

That's where a second budget restoration suggestion came up in the form of restoring the Fire Marshall to full time from the Supervisor's recommendation he be cut to half time, about 20 hours a week. Remember now, this is the same employee who has another full time public job as a fireman in the City of Troy and to work a second full time job here, he needs to be allowed to work four 10 hour days which means no one is around to supervise him after normal work hours.

The move to cut the position to part time would also save the town a heap of funds in benefits as part timers don't qualify for benefits. The town could also have made a second part time position available if we really needed the staffing and still avoided paying benefits for a single full time position. But this is North Greenbush and smart management decisions just aren't in the mix. That's why we spent an extra $30,000 to redo a Comprehensive Plan with a no bid contract to boot, when we could have simply amended the finished one we got for FREE! That's why we try to dish out an extra 10 Grand in needless overtime payments to a Building Inspector to do the fired Youth Director's job, a man who was paid about $14 a hour instead of some $55.00 in overtime to the highest salaried employee in town hall.

But hey, just spend the money. What are friends for anyway. Just take it from the Highway Budget or the PILOT funds of that department and nobody will know the difference. The town also has to come up with about $52,000 more than was budgeted for the pension fund. With this money added to the citizens committee wish list for job restorations, General Fund spending will increase about another $100,000 from the Supervisor's Tentative proposal.

When asked why a committee member wanted to restore the cuts to the Fire Marshall and Assessor, he really didn't have an answer for the Fire Marshall. (Al must have forgot to prep him on that one!) As for the Assessor, he said he didn't think Mr. Harkin could do his job effectively if his time were cut. If he spent a couple of weeks watching for Mr. Harkin's arrival at his office, he wouldn't have said that!

It's all in the game folks. When the General Fund spending is increased, we'll let you know who voted for it and who didn't. And when Legislator Desso abstains from a vote either here in the town or in the county legislature because of a "conflict" we'll also let you know about it. Dammed if you do and damned if you don't.

An Ear-full for Al Spain

We give committee member Mike Marchese credit for saying things that are on his mind. Mike is also an appointed member of the Ethics Board and he let Mr. Spain know last night that he's not happy about the fact that the Ethics Board has never met, not once, not for a minute, since it was finally reappointed after going two years with Spain, Desso, Evers and Kern in the majority, without anyone on the Ethics Board. Spain has a little problem in the form of an ethics complaint that as lingered unheard by this 3 person board and we think Spain wants to keep it that way. But hey Mike, just go down to the town clerk's office and ask for a copy of the complaint that's on file there. Then copy it and give it to the other two board members and have the Chairman of the Board convene a meeting. For the record Al, Lou and company, the town's Ethics Board has managed to go nearly a year without a single meeting and the complaint against the ethics of Mr. Spain, they've never seen the letter. What the heck, save the trip to town hall and read the letter here. You'll also begin to understand why Spain wants to restore money to the budget to keep both out of town attorneys on the payroll rather than save a few thousand dollars combining the positions with one lower overall salary instead of two people and two salaries.
Board of Ethics Spain 109

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