agrees to leave
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO February 26, 2013 Sullivan County Manager David Fanslau’s last day with the county will be this Friday, March 1.
That departure date has been on the horizon ever since a majority of legislators voiced dissatisfaction with Fanslau.
It’s also been a source of tension amongst legislators, four of whom maintained that Fanslau was a professional worth keeping.
But in the end, all nine agreed to work out a separation agreement with Fanslau, which was concluded on Thursday.
And while Fanslau can change his mind up until this Friday, a press release issued last Thursday indicates he’s moving on, with his deputy, Management and Budget Commissioner Josh Potosek, taking over in the interim.
“Mr. Fanslau and the Sullivan County Legislature have amicably agreed to enter into a Separation Agreement, ending Mr. Fanslau’s position as Sullivan County Manager, effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 2,” reads the release. “The Sullivan County Legislature thanks Mr. Fanslau for his years of dedicated service to Sullivan County, and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.”
Fanslau did not return a request for comment, and Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson said details on the agreement are not yet public, though it does include a severance package.
Samuelson said the next step is to figure out how to search for a replacement. He said the process which resulted in Fanslau’s arrival seven years ago was expensive, and he’s not sure what his colleagues want to do.
“We need to discuss how we’ll go forward,” Samuelson acknowledged.
That process may be overshadowed by the ongoing 5-4 split over this issue.
Charter to change or not
Reflecting the same divisions about Fanslau, legislators on Thursday voted 5-4 against amending the county charter. The change would once again require just a majority (five legislators) rather than a supermajority (six) to hire, fire or suspend a county manager.
Though spurred by the situation with Fanslau, it won’t affect him, as he’ll be gone by the time this takes effect in 60 days.
The measure, however, is subject to a permissive referendum, meaning if 1,100 county voters sign a petition and submit it on time, a countywide vote must be held. (If that doesn’t occur, the change will automatically go into effect.)
Legislator Ira Steingart, who previously threatened to sue if the change was enacted, confirmed yesterday that he is seeking signatures to mount just such a petition drive to force a public vote.
County Attorney Sam Yasgur previously acknowledged that the 2007 change to the county charter which required the supermajority should have been subject to such a referendum as well but accidentally was not.
A majority of legislators ever since have said this return to the original charter’s language is doubly warranted so as to correct that mistake.
The 2007 amendment, said Legislator Cindy Gieger, “changed the power structure of the Legislature.”
Legislator Kitty Vetter agreed, noting with irony that up till recently, four legislators were holding back the other five from taking action on Fanslau simply because the charter required six legislators to agree on firing him.
“I think the position of county manager is one that should be at-will,” added Legislator Alan Sorensen.
Gieger, Sorensen, Vetter, Cora Edwards and Gene Benson ultimately voted for the switch back to a simple majority, while Scott Samuelson, Kathy LaBuda, Jonathan Rouis and Steingart voted against.
“I think this resolution is totally inappropriate,” observed LaBuda, calling the change “disrespectful” to the Charter Commission which initially recommended the supermajority requirement.
“What’s being done here is not right on many levels,” agreed Steingart. “This is illogical how can a majority take away the power of a supermajority?”
Rouis warned his colleagues that they may be “starting down a slippery slope.”
“A charter change is significant, and I think we need to look at it through a different lens,” he said, advocating for a formal charter review process. “... Let’s do this the right way.”