By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO December 27, 2002 Keeping the county running smoothly is the job of the nine county Legislators, but theres always somebody behind the scenes.
To ensure that things run smoothly, a competent and reliable support staff is needed. To that end, the Legislators took steps on Monday, December 23, to keep their offices going.
During the budget process, the salary of the Legislative Clerk was reduced from $12,000 to $3,600. Due to the circumstances surrounding the move, long-time Legislative Clerk Steven Sharoff resigned as of December 31. A resolution was set forth at the meeting on Monday to appoint employees to the Legislative staff.
AnnMarie Martin was promoted from deputy clerk to clerk. Unlike in the past, the clerk will now be a full-time job and the office staff has been reduced from four to three.
Promoted to deputy clerk is current Legislative Secretary Deniese Harting. Current Assistant Secretary Michelle Huck will be promoted to Legislative Employee. The resolution passed 7-2, with legislators Chris Cunningham and Kathleen LaBuda opposed.
Because December 23 was his final meeting, Sharoff took the opportunity to express his thoughts to the Legislators.
I had hoped that a year from now I would be clerk for 8 years. Due to some circumstances, that is not possible, Sharoff said. You hear what is said but you do not listen. I am appalled in the manner this was done. I treated each one of you with personal respect and dignity. I expected to be treated in the same manner.
I am disturbed by the process, Sharoff continued. I understand this is a political position. You have the right to appoint who you want. I have no problem with that. I have a problem with the manner in which it was done; you held no discussions with me.
Sharoff stated that only Cunningham, LaBuda, and Bob Kunis spoke to him.
Naturally, Sharoffs comments angered some Legislators. Two of the Legislators responded to Sharoffs comments after the meeting.
I find it difficult to understand his personal outrage when he, in fact, had the best political plum in this county, commented Legislature Chair Leni Binder. There has been a bipartisan discussion to change the position for the last three years. His salary came out to about $1,000 a meeting.
Even for a political position, that is ludicrous. For years, we [legislators] discussed if we lose the election, we could do the clerk position, she continued.
The current office staff has handled the majority of the work. This move just streamlines the structure, Legislature Majority Leader Rodney Gaebel remarked. As to Steves accusations that this was not handled properly, it is not true. I had conversations with him that date back a year. I expressed my concerns over what he was paid and the time he put in. He said he would put more time in.
I do not view this job as a political position. It is mandated by the state, Gaebel continued. In fact, the three ladies assuming the workload are all registered Democrats. We want to get the job done as efficiently as possible. To do that, it needs to be done by competent people in a timely fashion.
The changes go into effect January 1. For more on the Legislative Ladies, there will be a feature story on the three in a future edition of the Sullivan County Democrat.