Putnam County Approves Rule Change, Pay Raises

Also revives shared services committee

By Holly Crocco

At its final formal meeting of 2017 on Dec. 5, the Putnam County Legislature approved a rule change and raises for elected officials, as had been expected.

By a vote of 7-1, with outgoing Legislator Dini LoBue (R-Mahopac Falls) voting no and Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown) absent, legislators revised the legislative manual to require a two-thirds, rather than unanimous, vote to accept “additional materials” at meetings.

Additional materials often include data, emails, opinions and other information about an agenda item that were not included in the paperwork when the agenda was made public.

“This change flies in the face of open and transparent government,” argued LoBue. She said the change will allow the Legislature to introduce material without the public having prior knowledge.

However, Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) countered the change “speaks to the democratic process” of moving in the direction of what the majority feels is in the best interest of residents.

“I don’t think the intent is to be evasive, or to not be transparent,” she said. “The intent is if the majority of the Legislature feels the information brought forth is pertinent to keep going in an effective manner, then that’s what we should do. And one person versus eight [by requiring a unanimous vote] really slants it in a negative direction.”

Paul Jonke (R-Southeast) also spoke in favor of the change. “This requires a supermajority, not just a majority,” he explained. “I don’t see why one vote should hold up process and progress.”

In other business…

  • The legislature approved salary increases for the county executive and the nine legislators, with LoBue casting the lone “no” vote. Legislators gave themselves a 13.95 percent pay increase, bringing their part-time salary up to $40,000, along with the option to receive health benefits.
  • Legislators unanimously approved the establishment of an advisory panel to award Veterans’ Service Medals to men and women who served in wars from World War II to the present. “It’s a wonderful thing that we can do – bringing some history back to Putnam County,” said Joseph Castellano (R-Southeast), who will serve on the panel alongside Nacerino and Toni Addonizio, (R-Kent).
  • The legislature approved the re-establishment of the Fiscal Vision and Accountability Commission, which will be co-chaired by Nacerino and Neal Sullivan (R-Mahopac). Sullivan noted that the commission had been formed in 2008 “to work on items related to looking at saving taxpayers’ money and related to consolidation and sharing of services.” County Executive MaryEllen Odell recommended that the legislature revive the commission after she opted not to participate, at least in 2017, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s shared services initiative.
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