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Pondering positions of power

Alex Kielar
Posted 4/2/24

MONTICELLO – Former Charter Review Commission board members spoke at the Legislature meeting on Thursday, March 21. They discussed their proposals for staggered terms and a County Executive …

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Pondering positions of power


MONTICELLO – Former Charter Review Commission board members spoke at the Legislature meeting on Thursday, March 21. They discussed their proposals for staggered terms and a County Executive position for Sullivan County to be created. The former members of the Charter Review Commission to speak were Larry Richardson, Bill Liblick, Ken Walter, Peg Harrison, Norman Sutherland and Steve Altman. 

According to Richardson, the Commission is mandated to complete a comprehensive review of the charter every decade. The review entails a thorough examination of the operations of all county government departments and each legislator has the authority to appoint a member to partake in the process. 

The Commission noted that they worked for over two years and decided to recommend changing the terms of county legislators to have staggered terms, where no more than five legislators would be up for election at the same time. They also recommended that the county would be better served with an elected County Executive. 

Richardson said that since the Commission thought the staggered terms recommendation was important, they made a resolution and voted on it, which passed 10-0. He also said that the vote on the resolution to change the form of government to an elected County Executive passed, 9-1. Richardson also said that any Charter members not at their last meeting were also in favor of these resolutions. 

Richardson explained the reasons for and duties of an elected County Executive, including retaining the sole responsibility of the operation of county government and answering only to the electorate. 

“The County Executive as a leader of county government has the capacity to take on any and all scenarios both in and out of county government with the best interest of the county in mind,” said Richardson. “The County Executive has the ability to effectively respond to emergencies and respond to any and all situations they see, good or bad.”

Richardson noted that any decision to remove the County Executive would be made by the electorate every four or six years, depending on the recommended terms. 

“The County Executive form of government is best suited to work for and develop our county’s ability to compete for new business development while retaining already existing business,” Richardson said. 

The Charter Review Commission recommended that the Legislature bring the County Executive and staggered terms to a referendum so that voters in the county can vote on and decide if that is the form of government Sullivan County needs. 

“We need a voice for Sullivan County but you don’t have to decide,” said Liblick. “Bring it to the voters and let the people of Sullivan County decide.”

Liblick said that they thought the staggered terms was going to be approved by the last Legislature board, but it wound up not going through. District 2 Legislature and Chair Nadia Rajsz said that she was close to putting in a referendum for staggered terms in 2019, but it was voted down by one vote. 


Thoughts from Legislators

District 3 Legislator Brian McPhillips, who was on the Charter before he was a Legislator, said that having a County Executive was well-detailed in what the Commission found in their two years of work.  

“I agree that we should put it on the ballot,” he said.

Speaking from his experience going from the Town of Liberty board to the Legislature, Brian McPhillips said, “Going from a town government to a county government is extremely different. So at any time in replacing, like in this term, five different legislators, you are starting from behind the eight ball to begin with. You are heavily relying on those that did get reelected to assist you in the transition.”

He said that the staggered terms would not minimize anyone’s role, it would just take a six-year window and change how the majority or minority is elected. 

District 4 Legislator Nick Salomone disagreed with the notion of adding a County Executive as he said that it would be putting too much power into one person. 

“It becomes very political and he has to run every four years,” Salomone said. “Where the County Manager does the day-to-day operations and answers to nine people. I’m just skeptical.”

Rajsz said that she believes they need to keep having discussions on putting the two recommendations on a referendum. 

After District 5 Legislator Cat Scott wondered how they are going to educate the public on the potential referendums, Liblick said that they would have public forums throughout the county per district to show the negatives and positives. They would be held at all town halls throughout the county. 


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