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.

- Subsribe at
July 11th, 2013

Steingart Was Misdirected to Sue

Sullivan County legislator Ira Steingart was angry that the majority of his colleagues had the legal right to change the county back to a simple majority when it came to hiring or firing a county manager, so when he failed to get the required 1100 signatures needed for a permissive referendum he decided to sue.

Last week State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick shot down Steingart’s lawsuit and let the simple majority of five to hire or fire a county manager stand.

Justice Schick noted during arguments that the original 2007 law passed by the legislature with the recommendation of the charter review commission that required the super majority was not done properly because a permissive referendum was not held.

During oral arguments Justice Schick ripped apart Steingart’s attorney Bruce Perlmutter’s contention that the legislature’s actions violated law. Justice Schick maintained that Sullivan County’s Charter abides by New York State Law and that Perlmutter’s arguments of various municipal codes were inaccurate, as was his interpretation of Court of Appeals cases delving into changes in municipal law.

Sullivan County Attorney Sam Yasgur defending the legislature and its actions maintained that they acted properly under the law.

Steingart speaking in open court said he thought long and hard before he filed the case, but he felt the supermajority clause was needed in hiring a county manager in order to prevent politics from allowing a county manager from doing his job.

Steingart said he was a businessman and running county government should be conducted as a business. Justice Schick rebuked Steingart’s contention that a super majority was needed to hire a County Manager. Justice Schick pointed out that every major business has their board of directors decide by a majority vote who they hire as their Chief Executive Officer, and they do not ask their shareholders for a vote.

Steingart claimed the system still worked because the majority of the legislators who wanted former County Manager David Fanslau’s contract not to be renewed got their way. What Steingart did not note was that it cost Sullivan County $86,000 in a settlement to get Fanslau to leave, because he was not let go when his contract expired in December 2012.

Steingart blamed an unnamed legislator who he claimed kept changing his mind whether or not to keep Fanslau.

If you recall, in December legislators Cora Edwards and Gene Benson held a press conference calling for Fanslau’s contract not to be renewed. Legislators Alan Sorensen, Kitty Vetter, and Cindy Gieger later joined them in their move.

Steingart along with legislators Kathleen LaBuda, Scott Samuelson, and Jonathan Rouis wanted Fanslau to stay on the job.

During all the chaos, Rouis called for a new Charter Review Commission and a County Executive, a complete reversal of his previous resistance to a County Executive. Critics maintained that it was a ploy to keep Fanslau on the job for at least another two years.

Legislator Cora Edwards who attended the court proceedings along with Steingart’s brother Nathan said, “Justice was served. There were never six votes, and so a minority of four held the work of the government at bay.”

One would think that Steingart had better things to do as a legislator than sue Sullivan County.

Steingart supporters claim that he had to do what he did because he strongly believes in the need for a supermajority, and as a moral and ethical person he had to fight what the legislature did.

One must wonder why Steingart wasn’t advocating the supermajority before the charter review commission recommended it. He should have gone on the soapbox immediately after Dan Briggs was politically fired.

Steingart claims the supermajority is needed to prevent a county manager from being political, but the simple reality is that anyone who works for an elected body and is not protected by a contract or union is political no matter how professional or legitimate the hire is.

In the case of the County Manager, that person reports to nine legislators, an elected political body that runs our county.

The other alternative to a county manager is an elected County Executive, a political position that I have always supported, because the voters decide who will lead our government. Sometimes with an elected county executive you don’t always get the most qualified.

Whether a supermajority or not, former County Manager David Fanslau always knew his job was political. He knew he always needed to keep a coalition together to keep his job. And, so did every County Manager.

What is amazing is that certain legislators said one thing before their election and did something else after the election.

Supermajority or not, the legislature did not act properly when they knew Fanslau’s contract was expiring. The majority of five had no other alternative but to do what they did.

We need our legislators to work together for Sullivan County’s interests. People do not care if there is a majority or supermajority that hires or fires a county manager. The proof was there when Steingart could not get enough signatures for a referendum.

Steingart was misdirected in suing over such nonsense. There was no need to waste county government time and energy on such a lawsuit.

It is time to move on and focus on the important issues facing the residents of Sullivan County.

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

Comments are closed.