Veto override for benefits sets a bad precedent

To the Editor:

What has happened to the leadership of Albany County government that it simply chooses to ignore its own laws and hold the needs of one employee over the needs of others?

On April 13, the Albany County Legislature failed by one vote to uphold a veto by County Executive Dan McCoy. All 10 Republicans (myself included) and two Democrats voted to support McCoy.

The vote overriding the veto reflects the dysfunction and unfairness of majority leadership in Albany County government; and reflects the policy of providing political payouts to friends of those in power.

This issue began in March of 2015 when the legislature’s Democratic majority voted to provide health insurance retirement benefits to an individual who did not qualify for them. County Executive Dan McCoy rightfully vetoed the effort.

At the center of this controversy is Jay Quackenbush who was placed on the Albany County payroll on Jan. 21, 2000. He had worked as a private business contractor for the county on previous occasions before he became a county employee.

In 1999, the year before his employment, Albany County adopted a policy stating that someone must be a county employee for 20 years before he or she is eligible for retirement benefits. Prior to this, the county’s eligibility for benefits occurred after 10 years of employment.

It is plain to see that Mr. Quackenbush, who retired with fewer than 20 years on the county payroll, did not qualify for benefits. Yet Democratic leadership in the Albany County Legislature passed a special resolution in March 2015 providing him benefits, including health insurance during his retirement.

What an insult this is to the other county employees who, like Mr. Quackenbush, do not qualify for benefits. But, unlike Mr. Quackenbush, they have not been given a special favor.

While some may say that the cost of this one favor is only about $25,000 a year, they should be reminded that, if all employees are given the same privilege as Mr. Quackenbush, the cost will exceed a million dollars annually.  And it will fall on the shoulders of county taxpayers.

Travis Stevens, 31st District

Albany County Legislature


Editor’s note: Democratic Majority Leader Frank Commisso said Jay Quackenbush, who worked as project manager for renovating the Albany County Courthouse, received booklets on the benefits he would receive and letters from the county executive and the Department of General Services commissioner before the 20-year policy was adopted and was therefore due the benefits. He said the extension of benefits would apply to any county employee in the same situation.

"At this time, there seem to be a couple people that are in the same situation as him," said Commisso, adding that similar resolutions may follow. Commisso doubted the cost was as high as $25,000 but did not know the figure.

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