Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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February 28th, 2013

Fanslau Amicably Leaves and Now the Fun Begins

After weeks of intense closed door negotiations an agreement was finally reached to give County Manager David Fanslau an amicable exit. Fanslau will walk away with a package well over $50,000.

As I reported, Chairman Scott Samuelson knew for months there was growing opposition to renewing Fanslau’s contract, but instead looked the other way.

Legislator Cora Edwards read Fanslau’s contract line by line months before and when she raised questions was told it would be dealt with. If that were only true, it would have saved this county a great deal of money, time and aggravation.

Among things she discovered was the need to inform Fanslau there weren’t enough votes to renew his contract. Samuelson and three other Democrats knew that, but figured if no action was taken, Fanslau would remain because of language in his agreement.

In December, Vice Chairman Gene Benson with Edwards at his side, held a press conference calling for a bipartisan effort not to extend Fanslau’s term before the December 31, 2012 deadline.

Benson and Edwards were later joined by fellow Democrat Cindy Gieger, and Republicans Alan Sorensen and Kitty Vitter. They cited Sullivan County’s fiscal condition, job performance, and unwillingness to provide legislators with information as reasons to oust Fanslau.

Others maintained Fanslau was an effective county manager, a smart numbers man, and should not be blamed for our fiscal crisis.
Democrats Samuelson, Jonathan Rouis, Kathleen LaBuda, and Ira Steingart remained staunch Fanslau supporters to the very end. Interestingly, when Rouis was chairman LaBuda wanted Fanslau gone.

In an attempt to save Fanslau’s job for two more years, Rouis seemed to have an epiphany and called for a charter review commission to research a County Executive form of government, but that failed.

In essence, a minority of four legislators wanted to overrule the wishes of the bipartisan majority. The super majority clause was placed in charter after county manager Dan Briggs was politically fired. County Attorney Sam Yasgur admitted he made a mistake in not informing legislators about the need to hold a referendum when the clause was adopted in 2007.

Despite knowing that Fanslau was leaving and Steingart previously threatening to sue, five legislators stuck to their guns to change the charter requiring only a simple majority to hire or fire the county manager. That move came before heated crossfire amongst legislators.

LaBuda, who probably is the most political legislator, accused the five who voted for the simple majority as being “politicians.” Benson rebuked LaBuda claiming that when someone shakes his hand “they have five fingers when they leave.”
Edwards responding to LaBuda’s remark said she was a “public servant” and not a politician. She accused her four fellow Democrats with putting the county in a holding pattern since last June when the decision had to be made to extend Fanslau’s contract.

Nonetheless, now the fun begins as to who will become our next county manager. Names being tossed around include Treasurer Ira Cohen, former County Clerk Neil Gilberg, former County Manager Jonathan Drapkin, Sullivan County native JJ Hanson who is Ulster County’s Budget Director, and former Commissioner of General Services Harvey Smith.

After Briggs’ firing specific qualifications were added to the job requirement, but with this legislature anything could happen. A search committee is being formed, and there are those who want to hire someone far removed from Sullivan County politics. But, wasn’t that why Fanslau was hired in the first place?

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