Munn calls on fellow legislators to stop blocking transparency resolution

At the June 7, 2018 committee meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, Republicans unexpectedly voted in unison to block a resolution to improve transparency in county government. The committee vote occurred along party lines, 6-5.

The resolution, entitled “Resolution for Transparency in Dutchess County volunteer boards and committees” would require the county to list the many volunteer boards and committees on the county website in a consistent manner and explain their purpose. It would list the members of the committees, provide details on when and where they meet and how to volunteer to join one.

Currently, the membership of many boards is unavailable and the very existence of some committees can be hard to confirm, even by legislators.

“We figured something simple like listing committee names on the website would be an easy bipartisan lift for the legislature,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “It is unclear why there is suddenly opposition to requiring this information to be made available to the public.”

Originally put forward at the May meeting, it was tabled at the Republicans’ behest in order to get an updated fiscal impact statement and to clarify the request for the county’s IT department. The current fiscal impact statement is zero – no cost for improved transparency – based on updated language.

“Dutchess makes it hard for residents to find out how to volunteer and join conversations about key issues such as suicide prevention, Lyme disease, elder abuse, or serving the needs of veterans,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Poughkeepsie). “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue–it’s a common sense step that would strengthen our community and our government.”

The June vote was to resume consideration of the tabled resolution.

“An inclusive government makes our community stronger. Especially when progress comes with a $0 price tag, perpetuating barriers to participation is indefensible,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).

Republicans that had stated their support on the floor in May, including Will Truitt (R-Hyde Park), suddenly voted against discussing the same resolution in June.

“If you want to get involved with county government, it ought to be easy to find out how. Government, after all, is not some distant foreign thing, made up of ‘them’. Government is us; we, the people. That’s really what this resolution stands for,” said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon).

The effort to add volunteer boards and committees to the website follows a successful rules change in January proposed by the Democrats to require legislative committee minutes to be posted separately on the county’s website.

“Combined with the recent change to allow salary increase votes in non-election years, there seems to be a pattern of opposition to transparency and openness,” said Munn. “I hope those opposing this will change their minds or at least give me a sensible reason why not.”

Munn votes against new law relaxing rules on raising politician salaries

Does the June 11 vote to make it possible to raise salaries this year mean salary hikes for politicans are in the offing?
At the June 11, 2018 full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, Republican legislators voted to make it easier to raise their own salaries and those of other county elected officials. Legislator Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook) and every other Democratic legislator was opposed to the change. The local law was approved 13-10.

“I voted no because I refuse to be an accomplice in the effort to hide votes on salary increases for elected officials,” said Munn. “If anybody feels an increase is justified, they should be ready to make their case to their voters.”

The new law, when signed by Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro (R-Red Hook) who did not oppose the measure, allows the legislature to vote to raise the salaries of elected officials (including Molinaro’s) in any year instead of just election years.

Molinaro is currently running for governor of New York and did not attend the meeting.

During the meeting, Legislator Barbara Jeter-Jackson (D-Poughkeepsie) asked the chamber if someone could explain why this change was necessary and good. Her query was met with silence from the assembled lawmakers and administration staff.

The new law was sponsored by Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-North East), Assistant Majority Leader Don Sagliano (R-Pleasant Valley) and Legislator Jim Miccio (R-Fishkill). None of them answered Legislator Jeter-Jackson.

“Why fix what’s not broken?”, said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon). “As it stands, the law makes any change in salary come closer to an election, so any increase we decide on, we’ll have to answer for. Why hide that by moving it to an off-cycle year?”

The existing law required that votes to change salaries could only happen during election years before July 15 to allow the voters to weigh in immediately on the decision. For example, legislator salaries could only be voted on in odd-numbered years (not in 2018) and salaries for elected officials with four-year terms like county sheriff, county clerk and county executive could only be voted on once every four years: the year they face the voters.

Under both the new and old laws, any salary changes will not take effect until after an election and the next term begins.

“Good government allows for its people to participate in it and holds elected officials accountable. This new law is the opposite of good government,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).

Munn continues push to expand prescription drug take-back measures, fight opioid abuse

Democrats in the Dutchess County Legislature recently proposed legislation that would require drug manufacturers to pay for the installation of secure, drug take-back boxes at every pharmacy in the county rather than making the county taxpayers (or local business owners) foot the bill.

On Wednesday, Democratic legislators again called on the Republican leadership to allow their legislation onto the floor and to do more for residents that want to dispose of their unused prescription drugs and help combat the opioid epidemic and reduce teen drug abuse.

“On March 11, we submitted legislation modeled on a law that passed unanimously in Rockland County last year that would cost taxpayers nothing,” said County Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton). “It wasn’t even allowed on the agenda for discussion.”

“This is one small way that the pharmaceutical companies that have profited so handsomely from the over-distribution of these narcotics can begin to assume some responsibility in mitigating the damage that they cause,” said County Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).

On Monday, May 14, the Dutchess County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution to help a handful of qualified pharmacies to set up secure drop boxes for unused prescription drugs. This act applies to just six pharmacies in towns that do not already have a drop box at their local police stations.

The county will offer $1500 to pharmacies who are willing to install the take-back boxes to help offset the cost. This grant money will allow for small, mom and pop pharmacies to participate without financially straining their businesses.

“This was better than nothing, but barely so. We have proposed better solutions that are being ignored,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “With the ongoing opioid crisis and the misuse of leftover prescription drugs by kids, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to drop off their unused pharmaceuticals.”

“Many youths are taking leftover drugs purchased from big chain stores and risking their lives,” said County Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias (D-Poughkeepsie). “A single take-back box can save a life – we need one in every pharmacy.”

The Democratic caucus plans to resubmit the legislation requiring drug take-back boxes county-wide.

“Given the number of lawsuits across the state and the country, the time is ripe for a manufacturer-funded drug take-back program in New York State,” said County Legislator Francena Amparo (D-Wappingers)

“We won’t wait for the State to set this necessary legislation,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park). “It is within our purview to expand this program to all pharmacies in our county.”

Household Hazardous Waste Disposal & Electronics Recycling Event on April 7

Hazardous ChemicalsThe Dutchess County Division of Solid Waste Management will hold a Household Hazardous Waste Disposal & Electronics Recycling Event on Saturday, April 7th from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Dutchess County Resource Recovery Agency, located at 96 Sand Dock Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie. The collection is open to Dutchess County residents only.

This popular event is first-come, first-served, and residents should expect to experience wait times. Hazardous waste in containers larger than 10 gallons will not be accepted. Pre-registration is required for this event and there is a $10.00 registration fee. Residents can register online or by calling (845) 486-3604. The fee can be paid online using a credit card or paid by check. Checks should be made payable to “Dutchess County Commissioner of Finance” and mailed to or dropped off to the Dutchess County Division of Solid Waste Management at 27 High Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601.

The Household Hazardous Waste Disposal & Electronics Recycling Event provides residents with a safe and responsible way to discard a diverse range of household items that cannot be disposed of through regular recycling or garbage bins. Acceptable items include television sets, computer monitors, telephones, pesticides, pool chemicals, and more. A complete list of acceptable items to bring to this disposal day is included below.

The Dutchess County Division of Solid Waste Management collection events are partially funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Additional collection events are planned for June 16th and October 27th.

County Jobs: Seasonal Student Worker – Apply by May 25

Dutchess County is looking to hire a number of students entering or attending college for many different jobs with pay rates ranging from $10.50 up to $15/hr depending on role.

If you’re interested in the position or know somebody who might be, please click here to read more about it and other jobs available with the county.

County Jobs: Senior Public Health Engineer – Apply by April 6

Dutchess County’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health is looking to hire a Senior Public Health Engineer with a salary of $75,107:

Reviews and may approve plans and specifications for water and sewage disposal systems, solid waste facilities, realty subdivisions, swimming pools and bathing beaches; monitors compliance with SPDES permit requirements; determines environmental significance of project proposals under State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR); provides technical assistance to other engineering staff members and Sanitarian section; provides advice and assistance on public health engineering matters to consulting engineers, local officials and the public; leads and participates in field investigations, tests and inspections; participates in enforcement proceedings, including giving testimony at hearings; may supervise engineering section on an acting basis for a limited period of time; may sign permits and plans; does related work as required.

If you’re interested in the position or know somebody who might be, please click here to read more about it and other jobs available with the county.

County Jobs: Motor Equipment Operator – Apply by March 23

Dutchess County’s Department of Public Works, Highway Division is looking to hire a Motor Equipment Operator with a salary of $38,180:

Employees in this class perform routine manual duties in connection with the operation of motor equipment of up to moderate complexity. Specific directions are received from a superior, but employees are responsible for the safe and economical operation of their equipment on assigned tasks. Stuff like: Operates a truck in connection with the removal of snow, debris and refuse and the transportation of stone, sand, asphalt and other materials and supplies; Drives workers to and from jobs; Operates a snow plow, sander, roadside mower, water wagon, Loader, sweepers, small excavators and utility vehicles; May operate an air compressor in the breaking of pavements, and a chain saw in clearing brush and trimming trees; Performs manual labor such as loading trucks, digging ditches, cleaning basins, erecting signs and fences

If you’re interested in the position or know somebody who might be, please click here to read more about it and other jobs available with the county.

County Jobs: Park Attendant – Apply by March 23

Dutchess County’s Department of Public Works, Parks Division is looking to hire a Park Attendant with a salary of $31,712:

This position is responsible for assisting and participating in park maintenance and recreation activities. An employee in this class will be required to perform a variety of record keeping, custodial, maintenance, security and recreational tasks. The work is performed under general supervision. Supervision will be exercised over the work of subordinate seasonal employees.

If you’re interested in the position or know somebody who might be, please click here to read more about it and other jobs available with the county.

County Jobs: Case Manager I (Spanish Speaking) – Apply by March 16

Dutchess County’s Department of Community and Family Services is looking to hire a Case Manager I (Spanish Speaking) with a salary of $43,546:

This is a very responsible position involving the delivery of human services to members of the community upon request or by judicial determination of the necessity for such services. Case Management may be rendered in the form of undercare and care planning or through administration of a designated program. This position is identical to Case Manager I with the exception of the required ability of the incumbent to be bilingual to specifically work with Spanish speaking individuals. Work is performed under the direct supervision of a higher level employee. Supervision may be exercised over subordinate employees. Travel in the course of a workday and out-of-hours may be required. This is a provisional appointment pending a future civil service examination.

If you’re interested in the position or know somebody who might be, please click here to read more about it and other jobs available with the county.

County Job: Legal Secretary (temporary) – Apply by March 16

Dutchess County’s District Attorney’s office is looking to hire a Legal Secretary with a salary of $40,451:

This is a temporary position in the District Attorney’s office. This position supports attorneys by performing various secretarial duties of a technical, legal nature. Depending on assignment, the incumbent is expected to produce a variety of regular correspondence and legal documents, such as motions, briefs, petitions, affidavits, indictments, contracts and other documents. The work is often produced from transcript, dictaphone or rough draft, and the incumbent is expected to produce a legally acceptable document. The work regularly involves coordinating the scheduling of meetings, hearings and court dates for one or more professional staff members. The incumbent also provides other services, such as maintaining files and logs, transmitting legal orders and documents, and reviewing certain documents for legal requirements. The position differs from secretary-type positions in that the incumbent needs a detailed knowledge of legal terms and of the preparation and processing of legal documents that could be obtained only through prior experience in the field. The work is performed under the general direction of an attorney and within established guidelines and procedures of the specific law office. This position may direct the work of aides, interns, temporary employees and other lower level employees.

If you’re interested in the position or know somebody who might be, please click here to read more about it and other jobs available with the county.