Sullivan legislators reject staggered terms

MONTICELLO, NY — The seats of all nine Sullivan County Legislators will be determined in the election this November. Had the legislature adopted staggered terms for the election in 2023, four of the legislators would have served only two years rather than four, and staggered elections would have taken place thereafter.

But the legislators decided not to approve the resolution that would have triggered the change, thus things will stay as they are. Earlier it seemed that the legislature, which received the recommendation from the Sullivan County Charter Review Commission, would approve the change. But on the day of the vote, April 11, they voted eight to zero to reject the measure, with Mark McCarthy absent.

It seemed the lawmakers were at first unsure how the vote would go, and a motion to table the resolution was approved. Once legislator Alan Sorensen said he was now opposed to the move, there was a motion to reconsider.

Legislator Scott Samuelson said, “Obviously a lot of people who have made public comments have said they really, really want this. But as we have studied it and looked at all of the ramifications of it, it’s a very complicated issue… It’s going to be complicated for people remembering when their legislators are going to be elected… We all know what happens when we try to do business in an election year, no matter what you try to do, it’s complicated.”

The charter commission had expressed concern that if constituents vote out all nine county lawmakers at the same time, there would be a lack of continuity. Legislator Joe Perrello said, “We’ve proved them wrong about out that.” The last election saw six of nine county lawmakers replaced,” he said, “We worked perfectly fine, if not better than any legislature in this county has ever worked together.”

Legislator Nadia Rajsz said she originally agreed with the plan to move to staggered terms but changed her mind as deliberations continued.

County chair Luis Alvarez said he was a member of the original Sullivan County Charter Commission, and they decided not to implement staggered terms after much debate on the question.

The legislature issued a press release that said, in part, “After many months of consultation among ourselves, with the county attorney’s office and with the charter review commission, who initially recommended this change, we feel the citizens of Sullivan County will continue to be best served by the system the founders of this legislature put in place nearly 25 years ago. They established that all nine legislative positions would come with the same four-year term, and they determined that a more frequent turnover of elected legislators would not result in better governance. We agree.”

The charter review commission also recommended that the county change to a county-executive form of government. The legislature also decided against adopting that recommendation. If they had, the matter would have gone to public referendum to be decided by the voters of the county.

 

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