By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO March 6, 2001 The Sullivan County Legislature usually holds public meetings three times a month (the first three Thursdays). The first two Thursdays consist of committee meetings which set the agenda for the full monthly meetings on the third Thursday.
So what was the hot topic this past Thursday? Was it Park Place and casino gaming? No, that will be discussed this Thursday, March 8. Was it the held-up Bolton-St. Johns contract? No, that also will be discussed this Thursday. The Welcome Center? Government re-evaluation? The proposed countywide planning board? All were discussed, but they were not the legislators main focus.
This time around it was one key thing: attendance.
The attendance sheets for the year 2000 were released recently, showing the legislators attendance at committee meetings, public hearings, and the monthly meetings. The two legislators most closely watched have been District 4 representative Gordon MacKinnon and District 9 representative Steven Kurlander.
MacKinnon missed all of the April through August meetings due to serious health problems, which included quadruple bypass surgery and the loss of his kidneys. For the last few months, MacKinnon has been awaiting the approval to receive a kidney from his wife, Joanne, in a transplant operation. That may happen in a few months, yet MacKinnon, despite going to kidney dialysis three times a week, has not missed many meetings since his return on September 7.
Kurlander, after being laid off from Frontier Insurance in October, has only attended monthly meetings. He has refused to go to committee meetings because he feels they are for the most part, meaningless and redundant. All major decisions are not made in those meetings, but by the steering committee, which meets in secret every Tuesday morning or in the Democratic caucus. In fact, Kurlander stated that his attendance was better in 2000 than it was in 1999.
Kurlanders remarks angered his fellow legislators and further alienated him from the other lawmakers. Many legislators commented on the situation throughout the day.
Two other events on Thursday added fuel to this fire. Kurlander made a surprise appearance at the government center and did not attend the first three committee meetings. At the same time, MacKinnon was feeling very ill but refused to miss any meetings, and, in fact, he chaired the Public Safety Committee meeting at 2 p.m. This occurred despite the pleas of fellow legislators, county officials, and friends, who urged him to go home.
This just added to the resentment felt by some legislators toward Kurlander.
I was very insulted by Steves comments, Legislator Jodi Goodman stated during the Planning and Economic Development Committee meetings. Every committee is very important we need his input. We dont need his vote at the monthly meeting.
I agree greatly, Committee Chair Bob Kunis said after Goodman spoke. Steve is aware of the content and significance of these meetings.
In the afternoon, Kurlander did attend the DPW committee meeting because he felt the discussion on the welcome center affected his constituents. He even joined a group of legislators, DPW officials, other county officials, and members of the press to tour the proposed sites. While he chatted with some, there was tension between him and his fellow legislators. As Kurlander rode the bus, MacKinnon finally went home to rest.
Later, it was revealed that Kurlander had purchased a home in Lake Worth, Florida. Also, his home in Sullivan County is in the process of being sold to SullivanARC, and his new legal address is at his mother-in-laws home, also in District 9.
Another part of this issue is the fact that Monticello attorney Monroe Davis has announced that he will sue the county if they do not terminate Kurlander immediately. Davis gave the county a Tuesday, March 6 deadline to do so, or he will file suit. County officials have maintained since October that, as long as Kurlanders legal address is in District 9 in Sullivan County, there is nothing they can do to remove Kurlander from his seat.
Kurlander is still unsure if his temporary job in Florida will become permanent. Unless that happens, he will not resign from the Legislature. Kurlander is currently serving his second term as a legislator, which expires in January of 2003.