It is unfortunate – unbelievable, actually – that another post on the state of relations between the Legislature and County Executive is necessary.

Despite pending litigation regarding the Legislative Attorney position, I have been feeling really good about what is happening within county government. We certainly have a lot of very serious issues, but proactive steps to begin addressing them are being discussed. Indeed, I felt optimistic at our Standing Committee meetings last Monday night as it seemed we were finally focusing all of our time and energy on things that actually matter to the community.

That feeling did not last long, as we have since learned County Executive Moss is attempting to diminish or perhaps even outright eliminate the role of the Deputy Clerk of the Legislature.

An overview of the structure of the Legislature and what has happened since January is important.

Chemung County’s Legislative Branch is comprised of 18 positions: fifteen Legislators, one Clerk, one Deputy Clerk and one Attorney.

In the four months since Moss was sworn in he has (1) attempted to fire the Legislative Attorney; (2) sued the Legislative Attorney, the Legislative Clerk and all the Legislators; and (3) interfered with the Legislative Deputy Clerk position as described below. In other words, Moss has taken overtly negative action against 100% of the people who make up the Legislative Branch.

The Legislative Attorney

The Memorandum of Law and Affirmation of Attorney Bryan Maggs embedded below were filed last week on behalf of the Legislature. These two documents do an excellent job setting forth the facts and law as they related to this matter:

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The Deputy Clerk

There is no question the Legislature has the power to decide how many people are employed within each department of Chemung County government, as well as how Chemung County’s money is spent, i.e. appropriated.

Last weekend Moss sent an email to the Legislature explaining that he felt the Legislative Deputy Clerk should work on a part-time basis.

At Monday’s Personnel Committee meeting I asked whether the Legislators agreed. The answer I received was interesting. Within the past two decades the Legislature tried to get by without a Deputy Clerk, and then employed one on a part-time basis. Neither arrangement worked as the demands of the job are too high, and therefore we have had a full-time Deputy Clerk since 2005. For scale, it should be noted that the Legislature has already passed roughly 400 pieces of Legislation this year – something that requires a great deal of administrative support.

An excerpt from the resume of Cindy Kalweit, the outgoing Deputy Clerk who served from 2005 until her recent appointment as Clerk, shows that the Deputy Clerk’s duties are extensive:

The Legislature’s discussion of this issue begins at 2:00:52, continuing with a unanimous vote to hire a Deputy Clerk in a full-time capacity:

However, we were informed on Tuesday that Moss has ordered all Chemung County Departments to refrain from paying and insuring our new Deputy Clerk, and also to prevent her from attending orientation or receiving an email account. A letter from Legislative Chairperson Dave Manchester asked Moss to explain the legal basis for his refusal to honor our decision, but to date we have heard nothing.

Mending relations for the good of the community

To some this may seem like interesting political theater or Moss in some way showing his might, but I can tell you unequivocally as a person who cares deeply about our community and ran for office to get things done that his actions are having an extremely detrimental effect on the functioning of county government. This is not about partisanship or Moss’ goals, as Moss and twelve of the fifteen legislators are Republicans and it seems most of the Legislators are on board with the things Moss wants to accomplish. I am truly at a loss to understand the motivation underlying all of this.

Two big themes from Moss’ campaign last year were improving relationships with other government leaders (in that case the City of Elmira) and fostering a strong and independent Legislature.

It would be great if that mindset would reemerge as, to quote Moss, “everyone is the community is tired of the back and forth, and its time to move on and concentrate on problem solving.” We all have a tremendous amount of work to do and should not have to waste any additional time on nonsensical issues like these.

Christina Sonsire