Legislators spar over proposed jobs

FONDA – A resolution to establish two new positions in Montgomery County was a source of contention at the legislature’s meeting Tuesday.

The two new positions created in a resolution that passed Tuesday were a legislative research specialist and a deputy clerk to the legislature. The research specialist will receive a salary of $42,520 and the deputy clerk will receive $2,500, both taken out of the county’s contingent account.

Legislator John “Duke” Duchessi of District 6 said he didn’t recall discussing the need for two positions at a committee meeting earlier this month. Duchessi said he only remembered talking about the creation of a deputy clerk with some responsibilities of legislative research included in the job position.

“At no time did we discuss creating two positions,” Duchessi said. “The word position and the word salary were used, not the words positions and salaries … The intent, I believed, was to create one not two positions, and I will never, ever give an open-ended ‘OK’ to proceed that way in the future.”

The legislative research specialist position was created to help draft an administrative code for the legislature. The county’s charter includes a short-form version of an administrative code; however, the legislature wants a long-form version.

Duchessi said the charter states “who does what” in the county and the administrative code details how each job is done.

“I don’t think creating an administrative code is beyond our ability as a legislature,” Duchessi said. “I think we can do this work ourselves. I think we are unnecessarily creating a full-time position.”

Legislator Ryan Weitz of District 4, who proposed the resolution in committee earlier this month, said he thinks the resolution is what the county needs.

“This was what I had in mind, however I did make the comment in committee that it would be great if that person could double as a deputy clerk,” Weitz said. “Upon speaking with the personnel director, which some of the legislators had recommended, these positions and salaries [in the resolution] were what we came up with. The fact of the matter is, I think we have a lot to do as a legislature and we can’t have just one person in the office; we need that second full-time person to take care of our duties, especially this year.”

Duchessi proposed a motion to table the resolution until a later meeting, but only three legislators – Joseph Isabel of District 8, Alex Kuchis of District 9 and Martin Kelly of District 1 – voted yes, so the motion failed.

The resolution to create the positions passed by a vote of 6-3. Duchessi, Kuchis and Kelly voted against it.

After the meeting, Chairman Tom Quackenbush said the need for certain duties to be taken care of was discussed in committee, and there was no secrecy involved.

“The need for a deputy and the need for somebody to do this research [were discussed],” Quackenbush said. “We were charged with going to the personnel director and we did that. The personnel director led us in this direction … There was nothing secret.”