OSWEGO, NY – After more than 90 minutes of debate, sometimes emotional, the Oswego County Legislature named a new county treasurer on Thursday night.
Fred Beardsley was appointed by a rather fragmented vote. The vote was 14 yes to 7 no, with 2 absent, one abstention and one vacant.
Some Republicans voted against the appointment of Mr. Beardsley, the former chair of the legislature and representative of the 9th Legislative District.
Mr. Beardsley reportedly stepped down from his chairmanship position and resigned from the legislature sometime prior to Thursday night’s meeting. He also didn’t attend the meeting.
Kevin Gardner, the vice chairman, presided over Thursday’s meeting.
During the public session prior to the meeting two speakers also voiced opposition to Beardsley’s bid to replace the retired John Kruk.
Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler pointed out that he and several others had questions regarding Beardsley’s qualifications for the position.
Since the former legislator wasn’t present, it showed that he really didn’t want the job for the right reasons, Kunzwiler claimed.
The republican majority also refused to consider the appointment of the county’s chief accountant, Mark See, he added.
Kunzwiler said that he forwarded See’s name to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for appointment. It was the right thing to do; See was the best person for the position, Kunzwiler said, pointing out that he’s a Democrat and See is Republican.
Margaret Kastler, a Republican, told the legislators that See had volunteered to fill the position until the November election.
That would save the county taxpayers several thousand dollars, according to some of the legislators.
Les Holmes asked the legislators if they should install “a person with such a documented controversial political background into a position of such importance.”
Every legislator has received an unsigned informational letter from three Hastings residents about “this candidate’s dubious background,” he added.
He urged the legislators to let the voters decide who should fill the position.
“Our government, from the town, county, state and federal level is broken. Fix it! Start today. Let the taxpayer decide in November. I do believe that many of you work for your political reinstatement on election day and not for the people.”
Shane Allen also spoke about the treasurer position.
The person filling in currently is doing a good job, he said.
“That’s why we have elections, so the people can decide these things, not a select body of people. It has to be the mass people that decides,” he said. “It has to be everybody.”
Kunzwiler continually asked for an explanation of what qualifications Beardsley has for the position. He didn’t get a clear answer to his satisfaction.
See’s qualifications are solid, Kunzwiler said, adding that he graduated from college cum laude with a degree in the field.
“Make no bones about it – we are hiring tonight. We are taking away the public’s right to vote,” he said.
Legislator John Brandt pointed out that Kunzwiler had done just that. By submitting someone’s name to the governor for appointment (when he wasn’t even sure if that person wanted the position) – he had taken away the public’s chance to say who they wanted in the position.
By not filling the position, it could save close to $70,000, Kunzwiler said.
“Putting a person in here, that’s not qualified, just for a political position, is as wrong as you can get,” he said. “This is black and white.”
Anyone who voted yes would be “slapping the taxpayer in the face,” he added.
Democrat Amy Tresidder said she has received numerous calls from constituents opposed to the appointment and she would be voting no on their behalf she said.
“This is an irresponsible action and I will not support it,” she said.
Fellow Democrat Doug Malone said the county should go the rest of the year and not fill the position.
Another member of the minority said the issue was a matter of common sense as well as dollars and cents.
“Let’s set aside Democrat, Republican. Let’s just talk about sense; talk about common sense and dollars and cents,” he said. “This resolution is not fiscally conservative. If we can save $50,000 or $60,000 by not appointing a treasurer … why don’t we just wait until November?”
“We have a budget crisis coming. We have uncertainty about what’s going to happen with the last of the nuclear plant agreements. We should be looking for every dollar and making sure all of our decisions are wise,” said Shawn Doyle, a Republican.
Democrat Dan Farfaglia pointed out that several years ago, the governor took the county to court and won because the county had tried to appoint a new district attorney.
“Certain leaders on the other side of the aisle are masters of hypocrisy, no doubt about that,” he said. “What is happening is a perfect example of why our constituents are so cynical of this body.”
An attempt to table the resolution failed. An attempt to send it back to the committee level failed. And, an attempt to amend it by replacing Beardsley with See also failed, all along similar vote totals.
Legislator Morris Sorbello (R), a former chairman, said that while serving a chairman, Beardsley “has done his job.”
The chairman is the highest elected official in the county of Oswego, he said.
“There is nobody higher than the chairman when it comes to making decisions for the safety of this community, which he had to do for any issue that came up,” he said. “So he’s done his job. We’re not considering someone that’s done nothing, has no resume of any sort. He’s as qualified as any one of us or anybody out there in an elected position. To my knowledge, an elected position is an elected position.”
Brandt added that if some people wanted to compare the treasurer to a corporation’s chief financial officer, they should also acknowledge that the chairman would be equal to a CEO.
“I’m not sure, and I don’t want to speak out of place but, I don’t know that the treasurer establishes the budget for this community. I thought that was a legislature function,” he said. “By the same token, I heard from the other side of the aisle tonight time and time and time again that a candidate should be questioned in public by the people, that it should be the voters’ decision. Now, number one, it will be the voters’ decision. Number two, there was no such vetting or was there any opportunity nor was there any desire to allow the voters to decide when Mr. Kunzwiler asked the governor to appoint his choice for treasurer. You talk about taking a decision away from the voters? We have been selected here by our constituents to make decisions to run this government. Apparently, that’s not appropriate. What should be done, apparently, is that we should go down and hand-pick an individual and asked the governor to supersede and take charge of our affairs and appoint somebody without so much as even an indication from that individual that he is desirous of the job. I’m aghast and I’m disgusted at the comments being made here across the aisle. It’s pure politics!”