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Supervisors debate charter proposal

August 8, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

FONDA - Montgomery County supervisors Tuesday expressed mixed feelings about the Charter Commission's proposal for overhauling county government and whether to make changes to the proposal before sending it to voters in November.

For more than two and a half hours Tuesday, supervisors discussed details of the charter, which would replace the 15-member Board of Supervisors with a nine-member legislature, each member representing a newly formed district. The Charter Commission's proposal also calls for an elected county executive who could appoint people to positions that now are elected, such as county treasurer and county coroner.

A public hearing and board vote on the proposal is scheduled next week.

Article Photos

Dustin Swanger, standing, speaks to the
Montgomery County Board of Supervisors about the Charter
Commission on Tuesday.
The Leader-Herald/Arthur Cleveland

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shayne Walters said the charter proposal should be presented to voters without any amendments, arguing supervisors would be blamed if the proposition were to fail in the November vote.

St. Johnsville Supervisor Dominick Stagliano called the situation "a dual-edged sword," saying supervisors will be blamed if they change the proposal and it is rejected by voters, and the commission would be blamed if the proposal goes to voters unchanged and fails.

Amsterdam 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeffrey Stark said if the commission members don't accept feedback and changes to the proposal, they are setting themselves up for a failure when it comes time to vote.

"If it's something we should consider, and it's reasonable, and if we really believe we need to change the form of government, which I do, then we need to give it every chance to succeed," Stark said.

Walters said he doesn't think the board has a right to amend the charter.

"It will turn into one bucket full of dead fish" if the board changes the commission's document, Walters said. He said, however, he thinks the proposed division of legislative districts would create an imbalance, giving city and town of Amsterdam legislators a majority over the rest of the county.

Charter Commission Chairman Dustin Swanger and other members of the panel were on hand Tuesday to defend the charter.

"This is our recommendation, but it's up to you what goes out to the public," Swanger said.

Stagliano argued the proposal would give too much power to the new position of county executive.

"With all due respect, you were designing a benevolent dictator," Stagliano told the Charter Commission members.

Some supervisors objected Tuesday to the proposed power of the executive to appoint officials such as county treasurer. Swanger noted that change would allow the county to require candidates for treasurer and other positions to meet certain professional requirements.

Other complaints from the board included the proposed three-year terms and four-term limits for county legislators.

Several members of the Charter Commission and the Board of Supervisors argued against the possibility of breaking up the proposal into multiple ballot questions, saying this piecemeal approach would make the process too complex.

Despite their reservations, Stagliano and other members of the board said they want county residents to be able to vote on the charter proposal.

Glen Supervisor Lawrence Coddington said he would make some changes to the proposal, but he thanked the Charter Commission for its work.

Swanger said if the suspervisors decide to make any changes to the proposal, he and the Charter Commission would meet to discuss the revisions.

The Board of Supervisors will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on whether send the charter to a public referendum. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m., before the board's vote.



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