County seeks to monitor spending
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis issued a press release last week stating that he’d call for presentations from agencies with which the county contracts for services.
Given in front of the relevant legislative committees, the reports would focus on the economic and social benefits of the services these agencies provide, and the costs required to do so.
Legislator Alan Sorensen likes the idea but has a problem with Rouis taking credit for it.
“He’s responding to my initiative,” said Sorensen, the Republican representative of District 9, which includes most of Monticello and the Town of Thompson. “It’s something I’ve raised over a couple of different committee meetings.”
Sorensen’s initiative actually appears slightly different than Rouis’: he’s calling for these agencies to comply with a 2006 county policy requiring them to submit, among other performance-measuring items, an annual audit, plan and mission statement.
“It is something that is mandated,” he explained.
Rouis’ press release, on the other hand, makes no mention of Sorensen or the policy. However, the Democratic legislature chair feels he and Sorensen are really on the same page as are all the legislators.
“We’ve all collectively talked about it,” Rouis remarked yesterday. “... It’s been a consistent theme by everybody.”
Sorensen says that when he issued his press release on Monday via his new website, www.legislatorsorensen.com, County Manager David Fanslau quickly contacted him, sharing his concerns and promising to work with him.
Fanslau said yesterday that he had talked with Sorensen, agreeing that accountability is warranted from agencies receiving taxpayer funding but cautioning the legislator to avoid burdening agencies that receive small amounts of funding with expensive audits and other regulations.
Fanslau himself actually created the policy that requires specific performance goals from contracted agencies, though he said that he’s only enforced it with about a dozen of the county’s most significant contractors.
“And we’ve had pretty decent compliance,” he said yesterday (though Sorensen feels the County Legislature’s enforcement has been “lackadaisical”).
Still, Fanslau supports Sorensen and Rouis’ efforts.
“The more accountability required, the better,” he remarked.
Though no timetable has yet been set, Rouis indicated the relevant agencies will soon be asked to make their presentations to legislators in public session.
In the meantime, Sorensen is hoping his fellow legislators will agree to expand the policy by strengthening year-end reporting requirements and pushing for upfront budget proposal presentations.
“I feel very strongly that we have a responsibility to taxpayers ... to account for taxpayer dollars,” he explained.