Legislators discuss personnel policy veto

Members of the Montgomery County Legislature’s Personnel Committee met Tuesday to talk about what to do next in the wake of County Executive Matthew Ossenfort’s veto of a resolution approving a personnel policy for non-bargaining employees.

The full Legislature passed the resolution last week, but not before Legislature Chairman Thomas Quackenbush proposed an amendment restoring two controversial provisions: stipends for legislators who chair committees and health insurance for part-time employees, including legislators. District 7 Legislator Barbara Wheeler, who chairs the Personnel Committee and who wrote the policy, had removed the two items before presenting the resolution.

Wheeler voted against the amendment, as did District 8 Legislator Joseph M. Isabel and District 6 Legislator John M. Duchessi. District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz was absent from that meeting; the amendment passed by a 5-3 count. The resolution as amended passed by the same 5-3 margin; Wheeler, Isabel and Duchessi again voted no.

County Attorney Douglas E. Landon told legislators Tuesday that they had 30 days from the time they receive Ossenfort’s veto message to act on a possible override, which would require a two-thirds majority, or at least six votes. Ossenfort has vetoed the resolution but has not yet delivered a veto message to the legislature.

District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell, recently appointed to replace Alexander Kuchis, apologized to his colleagues Tuesday for voting to approve the policy despite having attended only one meeting as a legislator.

“I need to take this opportunity to apologize,” he said. “At last week’s meeting I voted on a personnel policy that was unpopular at best. For this I have to take ownership, and I do. Looking back at it, I should have abstained. I’d like to see us work on this [policy] and make it a better document.”

Purtell suggested taking between 30 and 45 days to examine and improve the policy. Wheeler was sympathetic, but did not want to wait that long.

“I do understand that, looking back, you can regret [your vote],” she said to Purtell. “We’re stronger when we work together, and I look forward to working with you.”

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.