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April 16, 2010

 

County eyes administrator candidates

At least one applicant will be discussed at Thursday’s legislative session

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

The Cortland County Legislature plans to meet Thursday to discuss a candidate for the county administrator position.
Personnel Committee Chair Tony Pace (D-7th Ward) said there are a few more applicants whose qualifications the interview committee will examine further, possibly scheduling more interviews before next week’s session.
Pace said more candidates could be “invited to speak to the Legislature” if their qualifications are impressive enough.
Personnel Director Annette Barber said there have been 10 approved applications, meaning they met the minimum job qualifications.
At a joint meeting of the county’s Budget and Finance Committee and Personnel Committee, legislators voted 7-4 Thursday to move the Legislative session to 5 p.m. But the time can only be changed at a regular legislative session and has been moved back to 6 p.m.
Legislators Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville), Gene Waldbauer (R-Cortlandville) and Tom Hartnett (D-4th Ward) were opposed. Legislator Amy Cobb (D-3rd Ward) was absent.
Waldbauer and Briggs declined to comment.
Hartnett said he does not expect someone to be hired next week.
“I think we should take time to look at all the candidates before we make any kinds of decisions and jump into anything,” Hartnett said.
Legislators interviewed two candidates in mid-March, Saranac Lake Village Manager Martin Murphy and North Rose resident Kenan Baldridge.
Pace said all the candidates who met the minimum qualifications were reviewed and the interview panels chose the most qualified to interview. Pace defended the number of applicants the county has received. Cortland has been criticized for not attracting more candidates, often compared to Cayuga County’s posting that attracted 27 applicants.
“Our job description is very detailed and it helps weed out those who we would not bring in anyway,” Pace said.
Pace said the job will continue to be advertised until the position is filled.
Before going into executive session Thursday to discuss the county administrator candidates, Assistant County Attorney Liz Burns warned legislators not to breach the confidentiality of executive session.
Following the Cortland Standard’s printing of Murphy and Baldridge’s names on March 23, many legislators were upset the names were leaked to the press.
“Executive session is intended to be completely confidential and not released to the media,” Burns said.
Contacted after the meeting, Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, disagreed, saying boards are generally not bound by confidentiality of executive sessions. He noted that boards have the option not to go into executive session.
“The board is free to discuss whatever it may be in public. When there is that option, there is nothing inherently confidential about executive session,” Freeman said.
Freeman further disagreed with Burns’ assertion that the county could be held liable if the confidentiality of executive session is breached.
“The only time you are obliged to maintain confidentiality is when a statute, an act of congress or state legislature, forbids disclosure,” Freeman said. “I don’t know of any statute that would forbid disclosure in this circumstance.”
Burns did not cite statute, speaking instead of the intent of the law. Burns said the reason there are exemptions from the Open Meetings Law is so matters can be discussed in confidence.
Burns said she was not prepared to agree with Freeman’s assertion that the topics of confidential discussions can later be revealed.
Legislature Chairman Jack Williams (D-8th Ward), who is temporarily filling the role of county administrator without pay, declined to comment on the differences in opinion over a breach of executive discussion.
Legislator Dave Fuller (R-Cincinnatus, Freetown, Taylor and Willet), who sat in on Thursday’s joint meeting, said he does not know what to expect from next Thursday’s session.
“There’s some mixed feelings and I don’t know what the result will be. It’s going to be an interesting meeting,” Fuller said.

 

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