Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Shame on them if they have no legitimate excuse,"

"Eighty percent of success is showing up."
-- Woody Allen

Some Ulster lame-duck legislators skip out | recordonline.com

By Michael Novinson
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 12/13/11

KINGSTON — County Executive Mike Hein's Oct. 25 address on the financial need to privatize Golden Hill was heard by 19 legislators and 14 empty chairs. Eight of those empty chairs belong to departing legislators.

The Legislature paid the Center for Governmental Research some $60,000 to analyze Hein's 2012 budget. Just 23 of the 33 legislators showed up Nov. 9 to hear CGR's findings. Six of the no-shows are leaving Dec. 31.

The Legislature's most important public hearing in nearly a decade took place Nov. 29. Eight legislators failed to show; six of those eight are not returning for another term.

Why so many empty chairs? The shrinking of Ulster's Legislature by 10 members and the switch to single-member districts Jan. 1 turned 15 of the current 33 legislators into lame ducks. And once futures were sealed, attendance changed for many.

The Times Herald-Record found 12 of the 15 departing legislators showed up less after learning they wouldn't serve another term. Attendance for seven of the 15 fell at least 24 percent.

"Shame on them if they have no legitimate excuse," said Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group. Legislators draw an annual salary of $10,000.

Walter Frey, R-Saugerties, attended 41 of his 53 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and Sept. 12. On Sept. 13, Frey lost the Republican primary to incumbent Bob Aiello 43-106. Since then, Frey made just seven of his 21 meetings. The drop-off: 44 percent. Frey was an early advocate for privatizing Golden Hill and was criticized by colleagues and public speakers. He didn't attend a single meeting of the full Legislature between July 19 and Dec. 5, when he cast the critical 17th vote for privatization. "I let them have their dog-and-pony show," he said. "My day would come."

Jack Hayes, R-Gardiner, attended 44 of his 50 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and Nov. 7. Hayes lost the Nov. 8 general election to Tracey Bartels 905-1,035. Since then, Hayes has made just three of six meetings and was the only legislator to miss the Dec. 5 Golden Hill vote.

A personal issue has taken Hayes out of state the past two weeks, he said. He extended his trip for a week after being assured there were enough votes to privatize the infirmary.

Joe Stoeckeler, D-Cragsmoor, made 11 of his 17 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and May 31. Since failing to get an endorsement at the June 1 Democratic convention, Stoeckeler attended just seven of his 24 meetings. Work and family health responsibilities prevented him from traveling an hour to Kingston for meetings. "I haven't put as much time in as I meant to," he said.

Not all departing legislators have cut back. Roy Hochberg, D-Hurley, attended every 2010 meeting and all of his 19 meetings between Jan. 1 and May 31. Even though Democrats endorsed incumbent Don Gregorius at their June 1 convention, Hochberg attended all of his 26 meetings since then. "You just put it on your calendar and make it your business to be there," he said.


Anonymous said...

Here is a new rule I would add to the Legislatures Rules.

Legislative compensation
A)Legislator's pay will be reduced 5% for each committee meeting missed, 10% for each Legislative meeting or public hearing missed.
B)If a Legislator fails to attend 80% of all scheduled meetings in total, they are not eligible for health care, pension or any other benefits that are normally reserved for full time employees and not 1/3 time employees that they are under NYS pension rules.

If this were a private sector employer, those who were missing work 5-10% time would be fired as unreliable employees.

Anyone got a problem with that?

Anonymous said...

10:03: As long as you apply the similar rules to each and every elected official in Ulster County, they are fine. Who keeps track of the Exec, the Comptroller, D.A., Sheriff, the Clerk and all their appointees?

Everyone should be treated fairly.