By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO February 13, 2001 - Last year, Sullivan County leaders hired one of the most powerful lobbying groups in New York State, Bolton St. Johns, to represent them in Albany on gaming issues. Since that decision was announced, controversy has followed it.
Many in the county did not like the fact that the county paid Bolton St. Johns $5,000 a month and no reports of their efforts were made public. The reasoning for this was that if certain information were made public, it could jeopardize their lobby efforts. However, Bolton St. Johns did keep Sullivan County Legislature Chair Rusty Pomeroy apprised of its efforts.
These concerns were addressed to George DeRosa of Bolton St. Johns at an Executive Committee Meeting on Thursday, January 18. DeRosa was there to ask the Legislature to renew their contract for another year. DeRosa told the legislators that his group could expand its lobby efforts to other topics, would be willing to make reports to the legislators, and only charge the county for the months it worked.
On Thursday, February 8, the Executive Committee met once again to discuss the issue some more. Pomeroy told those in attendance that Bolton St. Johns would provide monthly reports to County Manager Dan Briggs. They will also review Boltons performance in six months and the county does have a 30-day out clause in the contract. Lastly, they would expand their lobby efforts to other issues that concern the county.
I like that we have the 30 day out clause, Legislator Kathy LaBuda said during the discussion. The agreement is well-written. Danny could say to us, Hey guys, this isn't working, and we can get out of it.
While most of the legislators were in favor of renewing the contract under the new parameters, one was still opposed to using the group. Legislator Chris Cunningham voiced his opposition.
This is not an effective use of our funds, Cunningham stated. They started out gathering information for us to lobbying for gambling to now expanding [other lobbying efforts] further.
They have been called our eyes in Albany, Cunningham continued. We already have that in (New York State Senator) John Bonacic and (New York State Assemblyman) Jake Gunther.
The resolution to renew the agreement with Bolton St. Johns passed seven to one (Cunningham opposed, Steven Kurlander absent). The agreement would run from February 1, 2001 to January 31, 2002. The resolution is expected to be passed by the Legislature at its monthly meeting on Thursday, February 15.