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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 15, 2010

Super says its too soon
GOP pushes for early budget workshops

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A July 6 town board meeting with just one agenda item left Republican board members wondering why the supervisor didn’t use the time to start planning for next year’s budget.

Last fall the board’s Republican minority — councilmen Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm — had objected to being shut out of the budget process and advocated for more open procedures.

Warren Redlich sent Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion an e-mail prior to the July 6 meeting, asking him to report on the financial results of the first half of the year, and to set dates for budget workshops.

When Redlich asked Runion why the budget had not been added to the agenda, Runion replied that he had supplied board members with monthly revenue and expenditure reports, which he felt were sufficient, and that it was too early to set workshop dates for the fall.

Runion also indicated that he believed Redlich had a conflict of interest, and did not feel comfortable discussing budget issues with him. Runion’s conflict-of-interest allegation stems from the Committee on Professional Standard’s “official finding of professional misconduct” against Redlich in February 2009; the committee informed Redlich, a lawyer, that he could not represent clients in Guilderland Town Court.

Redlich also received letters of caution from the Committee on Professional Standards in June 2009, and October 2009. Redlich filed a lawsuit against members of the committee in May, claiming that his First Amendent rights, and his clients’ Sixth Amendent rights, had been violated.

Runion said that, based on the fact that a new complaint was filed against Redlich with the committee in March 2010, he felt he should not discuss the budget with the Republican board member.

“It would be a conflict of interest for him to participate in determining the budgets for the police department and the court now that he has a lawsuit filed to try to allow him to appear in the court,” said Runion this week. He said he hadn’t raised the issue in 2009 because Redlich had said he was no longer participating in Guilderland Town Court.

“That claim is obviously untrue, and it is just a lot of hot air; I haven’t set foot in Guilderland Town Court as an attorney since I was elected to the town board,” Redlich responded through The Enterprise. “Even if I had, that shouldn’t bar Runion from talking about the budget with me,” he said.

Runion said the town would need to have its ethics committee investigate the potential conflict of interest before he could engage in budget talks with Redlich.

“I just can’t have a skewed process,” Runion said.

According to Runion, over the next several weeks, department heads will receive budget worksheets, which they will submit to the supervisor during the month of August. The supervisor said he planned to set dates for public budget workshops in September.

“Under the law, the supervisor does not file a preliminary budget until Sept. 30, “ said Runion. He said he did not think it made sense to schedule workshops so far ahead because people’s schedules might change.

“I see no reason not to schedule them early. I anticipate Runion will continue to hide the budget for as long as possible,” responded Redlich. Last year, Redlich and Grimm accused Runion of breaking Guilderland’s town code by not meeting certain deadlines.

During budget discussions last fall, Redlich accused Runion of not providing board members with monthly expenditure and revenue reports, and budget requests from department heads. At the time, Runion said the codes that Redlich was citing were just guidelines set forth by former supervisor, Jerry Yerbury, and the important deadlines were Sept. 30, when a preliminary budget must be submitted, and Nov. 5, when the budget must be finalized.

Runion said this week that he met those deadlines last year, and will meet them again this year. 

The one item on the July 6 agenda was adopted with a split vote, along party lines. The three Democrats voted to establish the work day for elected and appointed officials as required by the state comptroller for purposes of reporting to the State and Local Employees Retirement System.

Redlich and Grimm abstained because they felt they had not been given enough information.

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