Sullivan County Democrat
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April 12, 2013 Issue
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County Manager David Fanslau’s last day of work was Friday, March 1. Management and Budget Commissioner Josh Potosek will be taking Fanslau’s place until legislators pick a successor.

County manager: What comes next?

By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY — March 5, 2013 – Yesterday, Management and Budget Commissioner Josh Potosek took the county manager reins from David Fanslau, who departed county government at the close of business Friday.
Potosek will serve as interim manager, running the county and earning Fanslau’s $145,000 salary after three months at the helm.
In the meantime, legislators will seek out a permanent replacement for Fanslau.
How do they plan to go about it?
Scott Samuelson
The Legislature Chairman is looking to advertise regionally for the position.
“Everybody’s desire is to keep all costs down,” explained Samuelson. “The last time we did a search, my understanding is it was really quite expensive.”
At the same time, he doesn’t want to compromise on quality.
“I’m not sure what the pool is here regionally,” he said, noting he hasn’t yet gotten offers from interested candidates.
Gene Benson
“I’d like to set up a search committee amongst legislators as soon as possible and interview candidates,” Vice Chairman Benson remarked, although he added that “it would be a mistake to rush into it [hiring].”
He’s confident county government will continue to run as needed and wants to discuss the future in-depth with his colleagues – including the salary for the permanent county manager.
“I would rather lower it a little bit,” he said.
Kathy LaBuda
“I think the consensus is we’re going to advertise,” said the majority leader yesterday.
In more than a decade on the Legislature, LaBuda has already gone through two county manager search efforts.
“It’s not an easy process,” she noted, expecting it to take up to a year.
Still, she’s already received phone calls from interested candidates and expects to be negotiating at some point, including over pay.
“I think the salary is comparable to the job,” she explained. “It’s a big task.”
LaBuda pointed out that a county manager from outside Sullivan will have to move to the county, along with his/her family, and commit to a 4-6-year stay.
“I don’t think someone will come here for less than $140,000 – I just don’t,” she stated.
Alan Sorensen
“I think we need to do it in a professional manner,” said the minority leader, advocating for advertising the position in various trade journals, with an emphasis on experience, communication skills, and an adherence to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Code of Ethics.
“We need to find the most highly skilled and qualified candidate and make an apolitical decision,” he stated.
That said, Sorensen believes the search can be handled in-house, rather than engaging a professional “headhunting” firm.
“I have had people approach me,” he confirmed.
As for the salary, he feels the current circa-$145,000 pay is competitive.
Cindy Gieger
Gieger wants “an exhaustive search to hire a forward-thinker to deliver a new vision for Sullivan County, one with a clear understanding of a new set of expectations in regards to oversight of our tax dollars and the importance of relief from state mandates; specialized expertise in the areas of financial management and capital financing, economic development, infrastructure, labor relations; and the ability to accept direction of the board is a must.”
However, she’s interested in lowering the salary to more closely match the pay of some of the neighboring counties’ managers/executives.
Gieger said she’s so far received one call from an interested candidate, but the full Legislature has not discussed anyone yet.
In the meantime, Potosek will remain as acting county manager.
“A pay raise [for Potosek] has not been discussed as of yet,” she stated.
Cora Edwards
Edwards wants the search process to utilize the advertising and networking resources of the ICMA, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) and the National Association of Counties (NACO).
“I would like to see the legislative body come together in a collegial way to prioritize the aspects we see as most critical in the role during our tenure,” she hoped.
“Qualities I see as priorities: ethical integrity and honesty; political neutrality; ability to articulate and implement a shared vision for the future of Sullivan County; ability to work with all nine legislators on an equal basis as a team and recommend policies and procedures for the Legislature to consider; experience with local, state and federal levels of government and how these levels of government impact the quality of life in the county and economic prosperity; strong leadership/management skills; demonstrable track record in public administration in the areas of organizational assessment, strategic planning and budgeting, strong fiscal background, risk management, emergency operations, public works and capital projects, county gov’t. departmental functions and program analysis; [and] the ability to bring the best out of staff as a manager and team-builder.”
Two candidates have already contacted Edwards, and she feels whomever’s chosen should earn a salary “within the range for professional public managers, depending on level of experience and recommendations from Human Resources and Personnel.”
In the meantime, she looks forward to working with Potosek.
“Over the past year, as Budget Commissioner, Josh has brought critical information to my attention in a timely manner in my role as legislator and as Public Safety Chair,” Edwards explained. “I hope that in this interim period he will have the full support of all legislators, and department heads, elected officials, and county staff to work as a team going forward.
Kitty Vetter
Vetter hopes legislators mimic the processes which brought new leaders to both Cornell Cooperative Extension and SUNY Sullivan in recent months.
“I think that worked out to the great benefit of the county,” she observed.
As for the salary, “I think Fanslau came in on a boom, not a bust,” she noted. “I don’t see looking to give a higher salary, for sure.”
She added that “there’s probably a lot of qualified people looking for jobs” and hopes her colleagues agree to bring on a professional “headhunting” firm.
A thorough search and hiring process, however, will take 6-12 months, she said, so it’s important to be on the same page with Potosek in the interim.
“We need to sit down and talk to Josh in a much more lengthy discussion,” Vetter said, to determine how long he’s willing to serve as the acting county manager.
Ira Steingart
“As a Legislature, we should meet together and come up with a game plan,” assessed Steingart, who feels Potosek is capable of handling whatever happens in the meantime.
As for the pay, Steingart said it will depend on who’s interested.
“I think the pay scale, in running a $190 million budget, is not out of line,” he expressed.
Jonathan Rouis
“I believe we will go through a fair and comprehensive search for the best candidate,” Rouis predicted, also anticipating that the pay for a permanent replacement will remain similar to Fanslau’s.
But he remains hopeful of a discussion about switching to an elected county executive instead of a Legislature-appointed manager.
“I would still like the board to take a hard look at the county executive issue,” he affirmed.
In the meantime, “I think Josh and the commissioners will be able to run things while we search,” he remarked.

Per agreement, Fanslau departs with $84,000

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 5, 2013 – Now that David Fanslau is no longer the county manager, Sullivan County officials have released the specific terms of his separation agreement, in response to a Democrat FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request.
Forged with legislators and signed on February 21, the document spells out Fanslau’s departure and ensures that neither Fanslau nor legislators can pursue legal action against one another.
Of particular interest:
• Fanslau is receiving $84,367.50 in “separate compensation,” being paid out over 15 equal installments of $5,624.50 apiece through this coming October.
The agreement, however, specifies that this is not compensation for employment, “owing to the fact that Mr. Fanslau’s employment with Sullivan County was not terminated but had simply reached the end of its natural term” on December 31, 2012.
Should the IRS or another entity consider it taxable income, Fanslau must hold the county harmless against claims and must reimburse it for any resulting payments.
• The agreement gives him family medical, dental and vision insurance through April 30, and his unused vacation time will be paid out in 15 equal installments through this October.
• The county is paying for Fanslau’s legal advice concerning the separation agreement, up to $5,000.
• The county has agreed “not to interfere with any search for employment” by Fanslau.
That means county officials cannot initiate calls to prospective employers and, if contacted by a firm seeking Fanslau’s employment history, must only provide a “positive letter of reference” giving dates of employment, positions held, performance evaluations and salary info.
• Fanslau and all nine legislators are specifically prohibited from making public comments which disparage each other, and he must adhere to the county’s Ethics Code, which mandates a year must go by before he can appear in front of any county government board or agency over which he had jurisdiction.
• All documents – paper or electronic – relating to his county job must be preserved and given to the County Attorney’s Office.

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