Officials split on consolidation of posts
GLOVERSVILLE – Mayor Dayton King has suggested changing the city charter to let elected city officials serve simultaneously on the county level, but the proposal doesn’t appear to have the support of the Common Council.
Last month, King brought up the idea of consolidating positions to allow the mayor and council members to serve on the county Board of Supervisors as well – a change that he says could streamline government and save money.
In response to an inquiry from King about the legality of a city mayor also serving as a county supervisor, the Fulton County Board of Elections consulted the state Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s office concluded “it is well settled that one may not run for two public offices where one would be precluded from holding both offices at the same time,” according to a June 10 letter from Lynne Rubscha and Lee Hollenbeck, Fulton County’s two Board of Elections commissioners.
“The opinion of the Attorney General’s Office is that it would be inadvisable for the same person to hold both the office of mayor of a small city and supervisor from one of the wards in the city,” Rubscha and Hollenbeck wrote in their letter to King. “We have determined, based on the city charter and section 6-122 of NY State election law, that you can’t, or should not run for the mayor position and the city supervisor position at the same time.”
City charter section C-15 prohibits any council member or mayor from holding any other city office or city employment. Whether Gloversville’s ward supervisors are city employees or county employees remains a matter of debate among local officials.
“I always thought of the supervisor as a county position, but when you really think about it, it is the city because they are elected by the city residents,” 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said at last month’s meeting. “They are not elected by the county as a whole, and they serve the city.”
King and City Attorney Anthony Casale disagreed.
The city supervisors are paid by the county, Casale argued.
“I believe that the county supervisor position is clearly a county position,” Casale said. “For what it is worth, I respectfully disagree with the Board of Elections.”
King said Fulton County’s 10 town supervisors have a say in both county and town issues, and he thinks city officials should have the same dual role.
Changing the city charter to consolidate the city council and supervisor positions would require a public referendum. King encouraged the Common Council to propose such a referendum, but it took no action.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio supported consolidating the council and supervisor jobs but said it would be wrong for the city’s mayor to also hold a county-level position.
“The supervisor and the council person, those two jobs are pretty similar – but with the mayor he should be here running the city, and that is kind of difficult when their meetings are during the day,” Anadio said. “His job is at City Hall.”
County Board of Supervisors Chairman William Waldron of Johnstown said he thinks the matter should be up to the residents of Gloversville.
“When a town supervisor gets elected, they are automatically on the county [board],” Waldron said. “Now, city supervisor[s] … are elected by the residents of the city, but they have no input in the city business per se. They are just representing the city on the Board of Supervisors at the county level.”
Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Richard Ottalagano said in his view, the city council is the legislative branch and the mayor is the executive branch, while county supervisors are a little bit of both.
“I wouldn’t have a problem if a councilman and supervisor are one in the same,” Ottalagano said. “I would have a problem with the mayor being in both positions.”
Second Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. said he wishes the mayor had spoken to the supervisors about his idea before airing it in public. He said the legality of the proposal should have been researched more before it was presented to the council or the public.
“Everybody likes their own local representatives, but I think if you are going to consolidate, it should be one local government, and that would be the best logic rather than doing it the way Dayton King does it,” Lauria said. “There are a lot of things out there, and sometimes if they don’t go your way, you can’t just eliminate things, you have to talk and work with people.”
Fourth Ward Supervisor Charles Potter declined to comment.
Levi Pascher can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org