The Washington County Board of Supervisors gave themselves a raise at their meeting on Jan. 21, where Hebron supervisor Brian Campbell presented a lengthy list of resolutions, all of which were approved.
One of the first resolutions, approved unanimously by the 17 supervisors, authorized a settlement to an action relating to the opioid crisis (Allergan).
Washington County is set to receive $95,996 from the settlement, half of which is restricted for “opioid-related issues” purposes under the agreement, according to the “budget impact statement.”
Campbell explained in a follow-up phone call that there is a class action lawsuit in most, if not all, counties of New York State that originated from the Supreme Court case Suffolk County v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al, where Washington County is listed as a plaintiff.
“The (class action lawsuit) alleges several causes of action against defendants Allergan and its subsidiaries and affiliates (the ‘distributors’) based on claims that the distributors contributed to the opioid epidemic by failing to comply with their obligations under the federal Controlled Substances Act and the New York Controlled Substances Act to implement adequate measures to prevent diversion of the prescription opioids they distributed to pharmacies and others in Washington, all of which contributed to a public health crisis in Washington County,” the resolution said.
Another resolution approved the purchase of 18 2022 all-wheel-drive Ford Escapes to be distributed among the Office for the Aging (10 vehicles), the Car Pool (five vehicles) and the Department of Social Services (three vehicles).
The bid price listed in the resolution was $25,036.04 from Vance County Ford in Guthrie, Oklahoma, although Campbell said he believes the vehicles will be coming directly from Ford Motor Company in Detroit.
Campbell added that the board came to realize that it’s a challenge to purchase automobiles in today’s society with the pandemic.
“Last year, we came to the conclusion that it’s difficult to get your hands on vehicles,” he said. “Let’s see if we can get these for what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Local taxpayer money covers only about six of the vehicles, while the Office for the Aging DSS will be covering three quarters of the cost with Covid-19 relief money, according to Campbell.
Three resolutions addressed salary scale changes in 2022 for Washington County employees, all of whom received an increase between $2,500 and $5,000.
One resolution included the lines of chairman, vice chairman, budget officer and supervisors to receive $2,500 increases, totaling $42,500.
“I just think that if we come from the mindset that we’re never going to take a raise because we are public servants, I question that because most of us have taken a raise every year, a regular raise, and I applaud what was done at budget time to do the magnitude of raises we did across the board, and kudos to Melissa (Paciocco, recording clerk) in her first year for putting together a program where everybody got treated the same,” Campbell said.
“I was only treating the supervisors’ half of what everyone else is, and I thought that was a sufficient number.”
Hampton supervisor Dave O’Brien said the decision will establish an incentive for future town supervisors who fill seats of current board members, enticing community members to make an impact in their respective towns at the county level.
“We need to make sure that we have compensation that will make people want to come on the board and give the same dedication,” O’Brien said.
Granville supervisor Matt Hicks stood behind his objection to elected officials at any level giving themselves a raise and was not in favor of a flat-level 0%.
Campbell responded: “We do a 0% to do something of this magnitude, there will never be a better time to fix this, which is the worst job we get.”
Hartford supervisor Dana Haff was opposed to being “generous” with public funds and felt the $2,500 raise was too much despite acknowledging a raise was fair. Haff thought a 2% raise to all employees and departments was the best way to go about things rather than “carve outs” and exceptions.
“You’re right, if we did things more methodically and data-driven, we would be in a better place with less-percentage increase and end up in the higher end. It’s the difference between being cheap and being frugal,” Campbell said.
Haff also spoke openly about resolutions of appointments to specific legislative committees and boards being nominated solely by board chair Sam Hall of Fort Ann or vice chair Bob Henke of Argyle, and whether the appointments are serving at the pleasure of the board or the chair.
“I think it’s dangerous if the chairman has the authority to do something, to then ask the board of supervisors to ratify that, because that dilutes his authority. I don’t think that’s a good practice,” Haff said.
Haff then suggested if the appointees are showing at the pleasure of the board, the process of appointing individuals should go through the respective subcommittees that the individual would be serving or representing.
It was explained by county attorney Roger Wickes that the board could establish legislation to require appointments to be passed through subcommittees, but that this is traditionally the way things have been done in the past.
“I don’t think it’s intended to go around subcommittees, it’s just the way it has been done,” Hall said.